Democrats are still searching for ways to strengthen the climate provisions in President Biden’s environment and social policy bill just days before he is set to appear at a United Nations climate summit that begins on Sunday in Glasgow, and some lawmakers say they have not given up the push to include a tax on planet-warming carbon dioxide pollution.
The White House is urging lawmakers to agree on a framework for the legislation before the president meets other world leaders at the summit. Mr. Biden hopes to point to the bill as evidence that he will be able to meet his ambitious promise that the United States will cut its planet-warming pollution 50 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.
As it stands now, passage of the bill, which is expected to include roughly $500 billion in spending on climate and environmental provisions, would get the United States up to half the way toward that target, according to an analysis by Rhodium Group, an independent policy research firm.
The package is set to include about $300 billion in tax incentives to promote renewable energy and electric vehicles. Until recently, Mr. Biden had hoped that it would also include a $150 billion program to pay electric utilities to close fossil fuel-fired power plants and replace them with wind and solar generators, and to penalize those that do not do so. The combination of that program and the tax credits would have allowed Mr. Biden to credibly claim in Glasgow that the United States was on track to meet its climate targets.
The clean electricity program was dropped at the insistence of Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, whose home state is a major coal and gas producer. But environmentally minded Democrats are still trying to include other programs to cut emissions.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island and a vocal environmental advocate, said on Tuesday that once Democrats agreed on an overall framework for the bill, they would then craft a companion “emissions framework.” Mr. Whitehouse described a plan in which Democrats would commit to a top-line level of emissions reductions in the bill and then add policies to the legislation to achieve those cuts.
“Once we sort out the spending and pay-fors, and then once we know what we need to do for emissions reductions, that’s when the work on a carbon fee begins in earnest,” Mr. Whitehouse said.
But challenges remain for Democrats, who need every vote in their caucus to push the bill through the Senate. Mr. Manchin has expressed strong reservations about a carbon tax, and the White House fears that such a levy could open Mr. Biden to accusations that he is breaking his pledge not to raise taxes on the middle class.
Democrats seem to have coalesced around other provisions, including $13.5 billion to build electric vehicle charging stations, $9 billion to make the electric grid more conducive to transmitting wind and solar power, and $17.5 billion to reduce emissions from federal buildings. There is also likely to be $40 billion to promote climate-friendly farming and forestry programs, $30 billion for a “green bank” to help communities finance renewable energy projects and $10 billion to help rural electric cooperatives cover the cost of switching from coal plants to renewable energy.
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