Biden, congressional allies tout environmental record in Earth Day remarks

President Biden recognized Earth Day by touting his administration’s environmental efforts, including a Civilian Climate Corps and a $7 billion “Solar for All” program to expand access to rooftop solar power.

“The impacts you’re seeing, decades in the making because of inaction, are only going to get more frequent, ferocious and costly,” Biden said Monday in remarks in Triangle, Va.

The president pushed back on the notion of a binary choice between combating climate change and jobs, noting not only the jobs available through the Climate Corps but also touting a partnership between the program and North America’s Building Trades Unions. He pointed to the administration’s environmental accomplishments, including rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, imposing the first limits on so-called forever chemicals in drinking water and its proposals to ban asbestos.

“It’s all part of a plan to reassert America’s climate leadership,” Biden said.

Lawmakers associated with the progressive and climate-hawk wings of the Democratic Party accompanied Biden.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a vocal champion of the Solar for All program, praised the administration for the initiative and took aim at those who have labeled climate change a “hoax.” While Sanders did not name former President Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee has repeatedly and incorrectly asserted that human-created warming is a “hoax,” even as other members of his party acknowledge it as real but oppose aggressive policies to counter it.

“If anyone tells you that climate change is a hoax, have them talk to farmers, whose crop production is dwindling because of drought. Have them talk to firefighters, who risk their lives fighting fires with more severity and size than we’ve ever seen before. Have them talk to many thousands of Americans, including in my own state of Vermont, who have lost their homes because of unprecedented flooding,” Sanders said.

The Solar for All program, he added, is “spending $7 billion to save more than $8.7 billion, and we’re reducing carbon emissions and we’re creating jobs — that sounds like a pretty good deal to me.”

Also present were Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who co-sponsored the original Green New Deal resolution in 2019. Markey hailed Biden as the “greatest climate champion president in the history of the United States,” while Ocasio-Cortez called the administration’s climate policies a triumph over cynicism about progressive and environmental activism.

“People said then it was impossible, and to that we said, ‘Watch us work,’” Ocasio-Cortez said. “It was the power of young people who have made today possible.”

The New York congresswoman specifically highlighted a number of recent climate actions the administration has taken, including a temporary pause on new exports of liquefied natural gas and barring oil drilling on large sections of federal lands in the Arctic.

To the chagrin of younger, more progressive and more climate-focused voters, the administration resumed leasing of federal lands for drilling and OK’d a massive Alaskan drilling project earlier in Biden’s term; it has otherwise tried to highlight actions like those Ocasio-Cortez invoked ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

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