Biden Climate Summit: Live Updates

Here’s what you need to know:

Credit…Associated Press

Bill Gates on Friday called for huge new public and private investment in innovation to meet President Biden’s and global goals for avoiding catastrophic climate change.

“Just using today’s technologies won’t allow us to meet our ambitious goals,” Mr. Gates, the Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist, said via video on the second day of a global summit meeting hosted by the Biden administration.

After Mr. Biden kicked off the first day of his climate change summit by declaring that the United States would cut its global warming emissions at least in half by the end of the decade, Day 2 of the virtual gathering on Friday is focusing on how the United States and other nations can meet their targets and ramp up renewable energy development.

Achieving the U.S. goals would take a substantial overhaul of current domestic policies, according to energy experts, who say that the country would need to virtually eliminate its use of coal for electricity and replace millions of gasoline-powered cars with electric vehicles.

Jennifer Granholm, the energy secretary, called the U.S. plan to tackle climate change “our generation’s moonshot.” Speaking during a session on the development of renewable energy, she said the Biden administration was aiming to cut in half the price of solar and battery cell prices while reducing by 80 percent the cost of hydrogen energy, which would reduce dependency on natural gas, all by the end of the decade.

“We need a mind-set that overcomes resistance to change,” Ms. Granholm said. “Many are stuck on the status quo and maybe they are insistent that we can’t reach our goals.”

But Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, warned Friday that countries setting ambitious new goals for cutting planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions were still producing too much climate pollution.

“Right now, the data does not match the rhetoric and the gap is getting wider,” Mr. Birol said. The I.E.A. last week issued a report that forecast demand for coal to rise by 4.5 percent this year, mainly to meet soaring electricity demand.

“We are not recovering from Covid in a sustainable way and we remain on a path of dangerous levels of global warming,” Mr. Birol said.

Yet there was some ground for optimism. On Friday, Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, announced that his country would end the use of coal domestically. On Thursday, South Korea said that it would stop overseas finance for coal development, and China vowed to “strictly limit” coal as it aims to peak emissions by 2030.

“By 2025, barring unforeseen circumstances, Israel will no longer be burning coal,” Mr. Netenyahu said.

Other speakers on Friday include Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, whose agency also will be critical in pushing through efforts by the executive branch to get the nation closer to the president’s benchmarks.

Mr. Buttigieg is likely to highlight his agency’s plans to reinstate tough fuel-economy standards on passenger vehicles, the nation’s largest source of greenhouse pollution. After the Trump administration rolled back those standards last year, domestic tailpipe pollution of greenhouse gases was projected to soar. Mr. Buttigieg, working jointly with the Environmental Protection Agency, is expected to propose new regulations by July that would tamp down that pollution and require automakers to invest heavily in building and selling electric vehicles.

On Thursday, the Transportation Department took a step toward that end, formally proposing to withdraw a Trump administration rule that would have blocked California and other states from setting state-level tailpipe emissions standards that were tougher than federal standards. The move sets the stage for the Biden administration to model new, nationwide auto pollution rules on tough standards already in place in California.

Mr. Biden is pushing his cabinet to implement other climate change policies, including rules limiting fossil fuel extraction on public lands and new financial regulations intended to curb investment in heavily polluting industries.

But even factoring in all those efforts, much of Mr. Biden’s promise to halve the country’s emissions remains wrapped up in the infrastructure plan, which includes the money and the policies to draw down carbon pollution, but has not yet been translated into legislation, much less found support from a divided Congress.

“This is a moral imperative, an economic imperative,” Mr. Biden said on Thursday. “A moment of peril, but also a moment of extraordinary possibilities.”

Rick Spinrad in 2014 on a fishing research vessel docked in Newport, Ore.Credit…Justin Bailie

President Biden on Thursday announced he would nominate Rick Spinrad, a professor of oceanography at Oregon State University, to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the country’s premier climate science agency.

The announcement potentially marks a new chapter for NOAA, which was at times a source of tension for former President Donald J. Trump, who publicly sparred with the agency’s scientists and was unable to get any of his nominees to lead it confirmed by the Senate. NOAA has been without a Senate-confirmed leader for the longest period since it was created in 1970.

In 2019, Mick Mulvaney, who was Mr. Trump’s acting White House chief of staff at the time, pushed NOAA to disavow statements by its weather forecasters that contradicted what the president had said about the path of Hurricane Dorian. Last year, the administration removed NOAA’s chief scientist from his role and installed people who questioned the science of climate change in senior roles at the agency.

Dr. Spinrad is a former chief scientist at NOAA, where he also led the agency’s research office and the National Ocean Service. The timing of Mr. Biden’s announcement was notable — on Earth Day amid a two-day climate summit in which he committed the United States to cutting emissions by half by the end of the decade.

The selection of Dr. Spinrad drew quick praise from the scientific policy community Thursday evening.

“We commend the Biden administration for continuing to nominate credible and well-qualified candidates who understand the urgency of the climate crisis,” Sally Yozell, the director of the environmental security program at the Stimson Center, a Washington think tank, said in a statement.

Rear Adm. Jonathan White, the president and chief executive of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, called Dr. Spinrad “an excellent choice for this important role.”

Representatives of the Taliban at a news conference in Moscow last month.Credit…Pool photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko

President Biden’s plan to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan has drawn sharp criticism that it could allow a takeover by the Taliban, with brutal consequences, particularly for the rights of women and girls.

In response, top Biden administration officials have offered a case for why the outcome may not be so dire: The Taliban, they say, might govern less harshly than feared after taking partial or full power — in order to win recognition and financial support from world powers.

That argument is among the most significant defenses against those who warn that the Taliban will seize control of Kabul and impose a brutal, premodern version of Islamic law.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken made the case on Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” saying that the Taliban must gain power through an organized political process and not through force “if it wants to be internationally recognized, if it doesn’t want to be a pariah,” he said.

On Wednesday, Mr. Blinken announced that the administration would work with Congress to expedite a commitment of $300 million in humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan, pledged last fall under the Trump administration.

“As the United States begins withdrawing our troops, we will use our civilian and economic assistance to advance a just and durable peace for Afghanistan and a brighter future for the Afghan people,” Mr. Blinken said in a statement.

Some U.S. officials and prominent experts call this “pariah” theory valid, saying Taliban leaders have a record of seeking international credibility, placing a high priority on the removal of sanctions against them.

To critics, however, such notions are tragically deluded, ignoring the Taliban’s fundamentalist ethos — and are thin cover for abandoning the country to a cruel fate.

Senator Tim Scott was chosen to deliver the G.O.P. rebuttal by the party’s top leaders.Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, a leading Black conservative and rising Republican star, will deliver his party’s formal rebuttal to President Biden’s joint address to Congress next week.

Mr. Scott was chosen for the task by his party’s top congressional leaders, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, at a time when Republicans are seeking to expand their appeal to nonwhite groups that have traditionally voted Democratic. In a party still divided over the legacy of former President Donald J. Trump, Mr. Scott is also a rare figure able to unite competing factions.

“He is one of the most inspiring and unifying leaders in our nation,” Mr. McConnell said in a statement announcing the decision on Thursday. “As Senator Scott likes to say, he is living his mother’s American dream, and he has dedicated his career to creating more opportunity for our fellow citizens who need it most. Nobody is better at communicating why far-left policies fail working Americans.”

Mr. Biden is expected to use much of his address, his first before Congress since being inaugurated, to build public support for his multi-trillion-dollar jobs and infrastructure plans. Republicans fiercely oppose the proposals as too expensive and too intrusive, and it will be up to Mr. Scott to make their case.

In his own statement, Mr. Scott said he would deliver an “optimistic vision” for the country focused on economic growth and “empowering working families.”

The task is a notoriously difficult one, with a nationally televised format that often results in stilted remarks or memorable gaffes. But it has also helped build national prominence for up-and-coming politicians in both parties, including Mr. Biden when he still served in the Senate decades ago. (Mr. Scott also had a prime speaking slot during the Republican National Convention last year.)

The senator, 55, has a remarkable personal story. He was raised by a single mother in Charleston, S.C., and blazed a trail through state politics in a party where most of the other members are white. He first won a seat in the House amid the Tea Party wave of 2010 and was appointed to the Senate three years later.

His work in Congress has focused primarily on economic development and tax issues. His plan to create opportunity zones to incentivize companies to invest in economically distressed areas became a centerpiece of Republicans’ $1.5 trillion tax-cut bill.

Mr. Scott is arguably his party’s leading voice on matters of race. When the nation erupted in protest last summer after the murder of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white Minneapolis police officer, it was Mr. Scott who stepped in to write a Republican proposal to push the nation’s police forces to weed out the use of excessive force and racial profiling in their ranks.

Senate Democrats pushing for a more aggressive federal intervention killed the bill at the time. But as he prepares for his speech next Wednesday, Mr. Scott is among a bipartisan group of lawmakers who have recently revived talks over a policing bill and are hoping to steer Congress toward a compromise measure.

Mr. Scott said on Wednesday that the two parties were “on the verge” of a compromise, though major political and ideological hurdles remained.

An outdoor dining area being used as a shelter by the homeless in New York City’s Chinatown in December.Credit…Ashley Gilbertson for The New York Times

The Biden administration on Thursday withdrew a rule proposed by the Trump administration that would have allowed single-sex homeless shelters to exclude transgender people from facilities that correspond with their gender identity.

The rule was part of a broad, governmentwide effort by the Trump administration to impose restrictions on civil rights for transgender people, even after a Supreme Court ruling affirming protections for gay and transgender workers. President Biden had broadly exerted the power of his office to freeze or overturn some of those restrictions almost immediately after taking office.

“We are taking a critical step in affirming HUD’s commitment that no person be denied access to housing or other critical services because of their gender identity,” Marcia L. Fudge, the housing secretary, said of the rule withdrawal in a statement. “HUD is open for business for all.”

The action represented a stark change in policy at the housing department, which said under the Trump administration last year that the rule would allow shelters to base admissions on “biological sex,” adding that the rule change would accommodate the “religious beliefs of shelter providers.”

Ben Carson, the previous housing secretary, had also expressed concern earlier, in 2019, about “big, hairy men” gaining access to women’s shelters to abuse or attack women seeking protection.

“The current HUD rule permits any man, simply by asserting that his gender is female, to obtain access to women’s shelters and even precludes the shelter from asking for identification,” Mr. Carson had said in a letter to Democratic lawmakers last year.

The proposed rule change was criticized by civil rights groups — including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Human Rights Campaign — which said the rule would mean transgender women, and even potentially other women mistaken as transgender, may be referred to shelters that also accommodate men, where they could face abuse or assault. Some women could lose access to shelters entirely, they added.

“By ending this discriminatory proposal for good, the department is righting a serious wrong,” said Dylan Waguespack, the director of public policy at True Colors United, which works on preventing homelessness among L.G.B.T. youth. “Whether it’s homeless shelters, sports or health care, supporting the safety and dignity of all young people is a central tenet to our society, regardless of who they are or who they love.”

Caitlyn Jenner speaks at the 4th annual Women's March in Los Angeles last January.Credit…Chelsea Guglielmino/Getty Images

Caitlyn Jenner, the Republican former Olympian and prominent transgender activist, announced on Friday that she would challenge Gov. Gavin Newsom of California in this year’s recall election.

Ms. Jenner, whose candidacy represents one of the most prominent bids for public office by an openly transgender person in the United States, said she had filed initial paperwork to run. News of her campaign was earlier reported by Axios.

A recall election is all but certain in California, where Mr. Newsom, a Democrat, has come under attack for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Republicans and backers of the recall effort have focused in particular on his leadership of the state’s economy.

Officially, it is still uncertain if and when a recall vote will happen, but organizers have said for months that they have exceeded the 1.5 million signatures needed to trigger such an election. It would most likely be held this fall.

In many ways, the effort is the work of Republicans struggling to maintain relevance in the overwhelmingly Democratic state. Ms. Jenner faces a steep uphill battle — a recent poll from the Public Policy Institute of California found that just 40 percent of voters in the state support a recall and more than half approved of Mr. Newsom’s performance.

“For the past decade, we have seen the glimmer of the Golden State reduced by one-party rule that places politics over progress and special interests over people,” Ms. Jenner wrote in her announcement. “This will be a campaign of solutions, providing a road map back to prosperity to turn this state around and finally clean up the damage Newsom has done to this state.”

Celebrities running for office is nothing new in California, where voters elected Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger, the latter in a special recall election in 2003 that ousted Gov. Gray Davis. But Ms. Jenner is a political unknown in the state, where it is notoriously expensive to campaign for statewide office.

No other Democrat has entered the race, and elected Democrats have repeatedly pledged to stick by Mr. Newsom, helping to shore up his support among Latino, Asian and Black voters in particular.

The race would come at a time of steep challenges for California. In addition to the pandemic, the state is likely to face another drought for the second time in less than a decade.

Ms. Jenner chose to run after meeting with several advisers who also worked for former President Donald J. Trump, which could complicate her chances in California. Democrats have repeatedly painted the recall effort as a plan supported largely by far-right extremists. Ms. Jenner supported Mr. Trump early on when he ran for president, but withdrew her support in 2018 after his administration repeatedly attacked transgender rights.

Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia speaks at a news conference on the infrastructure proposal from Senate Republicans.Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Senate Republicans have offered a $568 billion counter to President Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan, hoping to kick-start bipartisan negotiations, vastly scale back President Biden’s plan and kill the corporate tax increases he is eyeing to pay for it.

But while the White House welcomed the outline as a positive step, there was little sign that Mr. Biden or Democrats in Congress would embrace a package that many dismissed as insufficient for the economy’s needs and an unfair burden on middle-class taxpayers.

Republicans are working to avoid the fate that befell them with Mr. Biden’s first big economic initiative, a nearly $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill that Democrats pushed through Congress over their vigorous objections, as polls showed it was wildly popular with the public.

Eager to put their party’s stamp on that plan, a group of moderate Republicans trekked to the White House to offer an alternative one-third the size of Mr. Biden’s, and left optimistic that a bipartisan negotiation would follow. Instead, they found themselves quickly cast aside as Democrats used the fast-track budget reconciliation process to shield their own package from a filibuster and pass the plan solely with Democratic votes.

Republicans said they hoped the two-page outline released on Thursday, which they said would provide for five years’ worth of funding for roads, bridges, airports, ports and broadband, would serve as a starting point for genuine negotiations with the White House and congressional Democrats.

Several critical details, including specifics on how to pay for the plan, remained unclear.

Most notably, Republicans did not give specifics about how much of the plan represented new spending. Just over half of the plan appears to be an expected reauthorization of current programs, while the $2.3 trillion outlined in the Biden plan is new funding intended to supplement those expected funds.

Senator Shelley Moore Capito, Republican of West Virginia, said at a news conference on Thursday that Republicans were working with the White House “to square the figures.”

At the White House, Jen Psaki, the press secretary, declined to weigh in on the skeletal blueprint.

President Biden’s new tax plan, called the American Family Plan, would  make prekindergarten and community college free to all. Credit…Kirsten Luce for The New York Times

President Biden will seek new taxes on the rich, including a near doubling of the capital gains tax for people earning more than $1 million a year, to pay for the next phase in his $4 trillion plan to reshape the American economy.

Mr. Biden will also propose raising the top marginal income tax rate to 39.6 percent from 37 percent, the level it was cut to by President Donald J. Trump’s tax overhaul in 2017. The proposals are in line with Mr. Biden’s campaign promises to raise taxes on the wealthy but not on households earning less than $400,000.

The president will lay out the full proposal, which he calls the American Family Plan, next week. It will include about $1.5 trillion in new spending and tax credits meant to fight poverty, reduce child care costs for families, make prekindergarten and community college free to all, and establish a national paid leave program, according to people familiar with the proposal. It is not yet final and could change before next week.

The plan will not include an up to $700 billion effort to expand health coverage or reduce government spending on prescription drugs. Officials have decided to instead pursue health care as a separate initiative, a move that sidesteps a fight among liberals on Capitol Hill but that risks upsetting some progressive groups.

The plan will set up a clash with Republicans and test how far Democrats in Congress want to go to rebalance an economy that has disproportionately benefited high-income Americans.

Leave a Comment