World Leaders Focus on Innovation for ‘Clean Energy Future’

Day 2 of the White House virtual summit focused on how to meet climate targets and ramp up renewable energy sources. Get the latest news from Washington.,

LiveUpdated April 23, 2021, 3:04 p.m. ETApril 23, 2021, 3:04 p.m. ET

The second day of the White House virtual summit to tackle the environmental crisis focused on how the United States and other nations could meet their targets and ramp up renewable energy development.

Bill Gates during the White House climate summit meeting on Friday.
Bill Gates during the White House climate summit meeting on Friday.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.”

President Biden will travel in June to meet with G-7 and NATO members.
President Biden will travel in June to meet with G-7 and NATO members.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Biden will travel to the United Kingdom and NATO’s headquarters in Belgium in June, the first overseas trip he has scheduled since taking office and an effort to underscore a return to normalcy with the country’s European allies.

Mr. Biden will attend the Group of 7 Summit in Cornwall from June 11 to 13, where he “will advance key U.S. policy priorities on public health, economic recovery, and climate change, and demonstrate solidarity and shared values among major democracies,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said in a statement on Friday.

While there, he plans to meet with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, but there was no announcement regarding any events with the British royal family, which has been mourning the death of Prince Philip this month.

On June 14, Mr. Biden will move on to a NATO meeting in Brussels, where he will hold bilateral meetings with leaders of countries in the alliance, Ms. Psaki said.

The two-country trip also signals that Mr. Biden is more willing to loosen pandemic restrictions on his own activities.

He has made several trips around the country to attend events — masked and socially distanced — and plans a trip next week to Georgia, where he is expected to sell his infrastructure plan and reiterate his opposition to the state’s new, more restrictive voting law.

Mr. Trump’s first overseas trip as president took place in May 2017, starting with stops in Saudi Arabia and Israel, followed by visits to Rome and Brussels, where he turned the annual meeting of the NATO alliance into a gripe session — and made a point of leaving out the traditional assertion of the U.S. commitment to aid any member that came under attack.

Later, in 2018, Mr. Trump privately suggested withdrawing from NATO over the alliance’s unwillingness to increase military spending.

Mr. Biden, by contrast, has expressed his intention to restore the alliance, confront aggression by Russia and reorient its mission to include a heightened focus on climate change.

On Wednesday, NATO officials announced they would likely agree on a climate “action plan” to reduce emissions by military units and conduct an alliance-wide assessment of the potential threats arising from climate disruptions.

A wood pellet plant that operates 24 hours a day in Ahoskie, N.C. A new report finds that China dominates market share across clean technology sectors.
A wood pellet plant that operates 24 hours a day in Ahoskie, N.C. A new report finds that China dominates market share across clean technology sectors.Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

A report published by the Biden administration on Friday made the case that a failure to adopt clean energy technologies and reduce carbon emissions will contribute to rising economic costs, and warns that the United States has fallen behind in its efforts to develop strategies to combat the effects of climate change.

The report, published by President Biden’s Council of Economic Advisers, comes as his administration made a promise to cut emissions in half by the end of the decade. It compares the investments the United States made in technological innovations to the amount of money the government spent to send astronauts to the moon in the 1960s — 0.6 percent of gross domestic product was dedicated to research in 2017, compared with 1.9 percent during the buildup to the moon landing in 1964.

“Absent such a strategy, workers could be hit by the dual negative effects of declining jobs in high-carbon industries alongside too few new domestic jobs in the emerging carbon-free industries of the future,” the report said.

The 37-page report also shows that the rate of global carbon emissions is expected to stay roughly the same through the next decade, conflicting with goals Mr. Biden’s administration has made to lower them over the next 10 years and reach a net-zero level by 2050.

The United States, the report said, has also fallen behind its biggest global competitors in efforts to develop technologies that could reduce the effects of climate change. Citing data from Bloomberg, the report lays out a few bleak comparisons: China has dominated market share across clean technology sectors, from battery cell manufacturing to wind turbines. The effect, the report said, could “mean growing dependence upon more intrepid countries.”

A pride march outside of the Brooklyn Museum last June to call attention to violence against transgender people.
A pride march outside of the Brooklyn Museum last June to call attention to violence against transgender people.Credit…Demetrius Freeman for The New York Times

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken has authorized U.S. diplomatic missions across the world to fly the rainbow pride flag on the same pole as the American flag at embassies and consulates, according to a State Department cable reviewed by The New York Times.

The action reversed a decision by the Trump administration, which rejected requests from embassies to raise it on their flag poles during the month of June, which in the United States and many other countries is Pride month.

According to the cable and a State Department official, Mr. Blinken authorized diplomats to fly the pride flag before May 17, which is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, and to continue their display at diplomatic outposts through the month of June.

In the cable, Mr. Blinken noted that it was not a requirement and gave chiefs of mission the ability to “determine that such a display is appropriate in light of local conditions.”

During his confirmation hearing in January, Mr. Blinken told lawmakers he would support the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning people, including allowing the pride flag at U.S. embassies, appointing an L.G.B.T.Q. envoy, and rejecting the findings of a Trump administration “Commission on Unalienable Rights” which human rights scholars saw as a threat to L.G.B.T.Q. and abortion rights. An envoy is yet to be named.

During the Trump administration, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blocked U.S. embassies from flying the Pride flag on the same pole as the U.S. flag, saying the American flag should fly alone.

Some embassies worked around the directive, including in South Korea, which displayed it on a building facade instead of the flagpole. Embassy officials in South Korea removed the banner, though, at the same time the Trump administration ordered it to remove a Black Lives Matter banner.

The decision to display the flag is unlikely to be met with controversy in countries where L.G.B.T.Q. rights are not an issue. But in regions such as the Middle East and North Africa, where many countries outlaw same-sex relationships, displaying the flag could be contentious.

In the cable, which was earlier reported by Foreign Policy, State Department officials were told that when making decisions at their outposts to support L.G.B.T.Q. rights, they should ensure that the policy of “do no harm” is followed in order to prevent a backlash against the local L.G.B.T.Q. population.

Former President Donald J. Trump at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February.
Former President Donald J. Trump at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February.Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Former President Donald J. Trump is backing a group whose officials say will aim to combat the sprawling Democratic donor network Democracy Alliance, the latest attempt by Mr. Trump to put his imprint and involvement on Republican fund-raising efforts since he left the White House.

The group, called the America Alliance, will ask donors to pay annual dues and commit to giving $100,000 to candidates and organizations that the umbrella group recommends, according to internal documents and people familiar with the plans. Mr. Trump has asked Michael Glassner, the former chief operating officer of the Trump re-election campaign in 2020, to be the chief executive officer.

The new group will recommend sending contributions to entities created by or working with Trump allies and also to organizations associated with Mr. Trump, including a planned super PAC and his own multicandidate PAC.

Internal documents for the group, viewed by The New York Times, contain a note that no employees “will be compensated on a commission basis.”

Mr. Trump said in a statement to The Times that the group — as well has his own candidate committees and the party committees — was a way to gain traction against Democrats.

“For years Republicans have been at a fundraising disadvantage, but now thanks to Save America, Make America Great Again PAC, America Alliance, our fine party committees and all of our other supporting groups we’re going to beat the Democrats at their own game,” Mr. Trump said.

The group was originally conceived of by Caroline Wren, a professional fund-raiser who has worked for officials including Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and who worked for the former president’s re-election campaign. When it was first pitched to donors weeks ago, some advisers to Mr. Trump said that he was displeased with its existence, because it competed with other groups he was endorsing, and that he hadn’t signed off on it. Since then, he’s warmed to the idea of a new group, which officials say will focus on grass-roots activity as well as donating to other organizations.

Mr. Trump decided to install Mr. Glassner at the top of the structure, with Ms. Wren working for Mr. Glassner as a senior adviser, along with a string of other senior staff members and a board of a dozen advisers.

Ms. Wren has told strategists she has met with more than 100 donors over the last five months and has repeatedly heard a desire for this kind of entity to more effectively direct money.

The move by Mr. Trump comes as the Republican donor class is entering a midterms cycle and new presidential cycle, with the Republican National Committee, congressional committees and individual candidate committees all vying for donor support.

Mr. Trump’s Save America political action committee has close to $90 million stockpiled, primarily raised in the weeks after the Nov. 3 election, which he falsely claimed was stolen from him. The former president has repeatedly been the draw at fund-raisers at his private club, Mar-a-Lago, for candidates seeking his support.

Caitlyn Jenner speaks at the fourth annual Women's March in Los Angeles last January.
Caitlyn Jenner speaks at the fourth 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.

A food pantry in New York City this month.
A food pantry in New York City this month.Credit…Gabby Jones for The New York Times

The coronavirus pandemic has threatened to rapidly expand yawning gaps between the rich and the poor, throwing lower-earning service workers out of jobs, costing them income, and limiting their ability to build wealth. But by betting on big government spending, United States policymakers could limit that fallout.

The $1.9 trillion economic aid package President Biden signed into law last month included monthly payments to parents, relief for renters and help with student loans. Now, the administration is rolling out more plans that would go even further, including a $2.3 trillion infrastructure package and about $1.5 trillion in spending and tax credits to support the labor force by investing in child care, paid leave, universal prekindergarten and free community college.

The measures are explicitly meant to help left-behind workers and people of color who have faced systemic racism and entrenched disadvantages — and they would be funded, in part, by taxes on the rich.

Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia speaks at a news conference on the infrastructure proposal from Senate Republicans.
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.
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.

Representatives of the Taliban at a news conference in Moscow last month.
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.
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.

Leave a Reply