Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy En Route Somerset, MA
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Somerset, Massachusetts
12:46 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hi, everyone. It’s is a short flight, so I’m going to be really quick at the top here.
Today, the President is headed to Somerset, Massachusetts, to reiterate that climate change is an emergency. He will make clear that since Congress is not acting on that emergency, he will.
While there, the President will visit an old, coal-fired power plant in Brayton Point that is becoming a manufacturing hub for undersea cables that will support Massachusetts’s booming offshore wind industry.
The President will be joined by his National Climate Advisor, Gina McCarthy, who is standing right next to me, and Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry — both Massachusetts natives.
He will also be joined by Senator Ed Markey, Senator Elizabeth
Warner [Warren], Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Congressman Jake Auchincloss, and Congressman Bill Keating.
With that, I am incredibly excited to welcome National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy, who leads our climate efforts here at home, to talk more about the climate actions the President will be taking today.
Gina, it’s all yours. I don’t know if you want to — you good?
ADVISOR MCCARTHY: Oh, thank you. Well, first of all, as we now know, the President is going to Brayton Point, which is in Somerset. I would point out that that’s one of the oldest and largest coal-fired power plants that was in New England, and it closed back in 2017.
And the reason why we’re going today is because it really shows that you can turn an old power plant into something new.
This is about transforming it into a clean manufacturing hub. It is a company that is going to be actually manufacturing cable that connects those offshore wind turbines and keeps them solid and connects them to the grid.
So it is going to end up with the same kind of workforce as you would have had in the coal facility. And this is one of a number of coal units that are actually transforming themselves. When coal goes out, they’re beginning to invest in a clean energy future.
You’ve seen one in California that’s now focused on battery manufacturing. You’re going to see one in Wyoming that’s actually moving forward with — with a new-generation nuclear. And so there’s a lot going on. But I think it’s an indication that the President is really embracing and working with the private sector to actually have people understand that we are living in the beginning of the clean energy future. And we need to keep moving that forward.
And one of the actions that the President is going to talk about is a simple recognition that climate change is an emergency. And he’s going to indicate that, over the next few weeks, the White House and he are going to come out with executive actions that actually put some definition and some plans around that, because we’re not ready to give up on our strong goals; we’re ready to double down to make sure we get those.
And while it’s disappointing that Congress couldn’t get it over the finish line, that in no way precludes the President from using the full range of his executive authorities to get us where we need to go.
And I think the last thing that I would mention is: At the event today at Brayton Point, for good reason, we’re going to be talking about investments in heat to ensure that people can stay safe.
There’s about 100 million-plus people in the world right now that are experiencing tremendous amounts of heat, which is life threatening to so many, particularly our senior citizens. And heat is actually talked about as the “silent killer” in climate change. It actually impacts more human beings than all other climate impacts combined.
And so, right — the President is going to announce some new investments to allow states to be more prepared and resilient in the face of the heat and to, frankly, save lives, because that’s what it’s going to take.
So you’re going to be looking at an investment from FEMA that’s going to be over $2 billion. And that $2 billion is going to
go to [include] support[ing] states who want to build cooling centers so that folks have a place to go when the heat gets hot if they don’t have the air conditioning. And, of course, many people don’t have the wherewithal to afford that or the energy costs that goes with it.
On — we’re also going to — the Housing and Urban Development Agency is also going to be putting out guidance so that people can easily access LIHEAP dollars, which we all know — if you lived in Massachusetts, you needed LIHEAP money for the heat. Well, now we need LIHEAP money in the summer to keep us cool enough to actually st- — withstand these — this type of heat.
And so there’s resources in the area of 300-plus million [dollars] that — I think it’s 380 — that are going to be allocated to states who want to actually provide opportunities for air conditioning to be purchased through LIHEAP, as well as some reductions in energy costs so that consumers can afford it.
So those are the kind of efforts that we’re going to move forward with today and advance them. And for obvious reasons, it’s a great backdrop. It does sort of show off the work that we’re doing on offshore wind, which is really remarkable and way beyond our expectations. And we see the same in electric vehicles.
And one of the best, I think, exciting parts for me in this job is that the President’s framing of moving forward with — with clean energy, using innovation and technology improvements, is — I think it gives us great hope, because the private sector is all in.
You know, when the President talked to the car industry about electric vehicles, they were the ones that said 100 percent by 2035. We said 50 percent by 2030. And then they put in well over $100 billion to start charging stations and electric battery manufacturing units, more — more manufacturing of electric vehicles. And we found that the unions jumped on board, because these are the kind of increases in jobs, not decreases, that they were worried about.
So the framing of the President is really engaging the private sector significantly, because they know that a clean energy future is one that we actually need to provide stability and how we are going to grow our economy, but it’s also one in which they can actually find the cost-effective way for them to make money. So once the private sector sees that sweetener in the pot, it’s great. And I think that’s what they see.
When the President went forward on solar and issued an order under the Defense Production Act, just maybe a month or maybe six weeks ago, the first thing we heard the following week was $6 billion in money that the solar industry was going to put towards domestic manufacturing. This is what happens when you lead.
And so I’m pretty excited about today. I know we’ll have a lot of work to do. And the President will be announcing executive authority efforts and actions moving forward. But we’ll work hard and we’ll make sure that we cannot just achieve the goals that the President laid out but actually exceed them.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. So let’s — yep, go ahead.
Q Gina, can you address how the administration will meet your emissions targets if you don’t get legislation? I know you say there’s more executive action coming, but is that enough to meet the very ambitious goals that you set?
ADVISOR MCCARTHY: Well, we’re going to — I’d hope that you’d wait and see about the plans that we’re going to outline. But I also find that when — just in my experience, you know, when you set strong goals, when the private sector is engaged in spending their own money, there’s a lot — a lot of ability to accelerate beyond what the economists would anticipate at the moment.
And so while I would have loved to have seen lots more investment, we’re going to do everything we can to get a strategy in place that’s going to meet that goal.
Q Do you think the U.S. will meet that commitment, though?
ADVISOR MCCARTHY: That’s certainly what our intention is, yes.
Q What about — can you just walk us through what the thinking is for the administration about why you decided — why people decided not to declare a climate emergency this week? What was the thinking behind that, from your perspective?
ADVISOR MCCARTHY: I think that it was just a decision that we need to be thoughtful about this, and we want to outline actions, not just declare things.
So I think it was just important for the President to get his arms around the various threads of work that we can put together and lay them out in a way that he’s comfortable with.
Q And what do you see as the pros and cons of that decision, of declaring a climate emergency?
ADVISOR MCCARTHY: I think the President is making it very clear today that climate change is an emergency. And he’s making very clear today that while Congress didn’t move forward, that just is driving him to move forward with much clearer plans and much larger and more accelerated commitments.
Q Does the President or the White House have any concerns about potential executive overreach in declaring a climate emergency? Is that one of the considerations?
ADVISOR MCCARTHY: I think the considerations are just that the President wants to make sure that we’re doing this right, that we’re laying it out, and that we have the time we need to get this work done. That’s all.
Q And to be sure, the — just to clarify, the White House does believe that an emergency declaration can be applied to climate as opposed to a singular natural event?
ADVISOR MCCARTHY: I would lea- — I really don’t want to answer that. All I know is that the President has broad authority in these areas, and he’s going to utilize the authorities he feels most appropriate. Okay?
Q May I ask a follow-up to Seung Min’s question?
ADVISOR MCCARTHY: I’m not a lawyer, so it’s best if I don’t do that. (Laughter.)
Q If I could follow up on Seung Min’s question about overreach: Are you thinking at all about the calculus for Senator Manchin and not wanting to potentially alienate him in case he does come back and support climate in a reconciliation package this fall?
Q Or dur- — while the healthcare package also moves through the (inaudible).
ADVISOR MCCARTHY: You know, I do not know what Congress is anticipating now or any one senator. But the idea that the President is initiating here is to acknowledge the challenge. He talks a little bit about the science in his remarks to remind people that this is here and now, and he’s going to take action here and now.
Q Can you give any detail or a sense of how big the toolbox is when it comes to executive actions? You talked about how the President would be taking many in the coming weeks, but just what kind of — what’s the breadth of actions that we’re talking about here?
ADVISOR MCCARTHY: I don’t have anything more de- — more detailed to announce to you right now.
Anything? All right. Thanks, everybody. I really
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right, I think we have to be in our seats by like, what — like — in, like, five, six minutes.
All right, I have another topper, and then I’ll take some questions from you guys. Give me one second.
So, last night, the Senate cleared a procedural hurdle on the CHIPS Act with a strong bipartisan vote: 16 Republicans voted in support of moving the bill forward. This brings up — this brings us one step closer to passing a package that will lower prices for Americans, strengthen our domestic supply chains and manufacturing power, and bolster our national security.
Importantly, as Speaker Pelosi noted this morning, this package includes strong guardrails. These guardrails would prevent companies from using CHIPS Act money for stock buybacks and from expanding certain types of semiconductor manufacturing in China.
These guardrails will ensure that these important investments stay in the United States. They will sharpen our competitive edge against China and protect our national security.
We look forward to getting a final bill to the President’s desk and signed as soon as possible. The stakes are high, and there’s no time to waste.
All right. Since we have a couple minutes, you guys have anything? Or —
Q Can I — there seems to be a lot of momentum, even among Republicans, building behind the same-sex marriage bill that passed the House yesterday. So I wanted to know the White House’s reaction to that momentum and if the President is going to get personally involved in pushing that bill across the finish line.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you know, this is something that’s personal to the President. He has led on this issue for many years. I was just talking to him about this earlier. So he is a — as I said, a proud champion of the right for people to marry whom they love, and is grateful to see bipartisan support for that right. He believes it is nonnegotiable and that the Senate should act swiftly to get this to the President’s desk. He wants to get — he wants to sign this.
So we need this legislation, and we urge Congress to move as quickly as possible. And it’s — and it’s something the vast majority of the country support, just like they support restoring Roe, stopping a national abortion ban, and protecting the right to use contraception.
To your — to your specific question: Look, as I — as I’ve said many times before, and you hear me say this all the time, our office of Leg Affairs and other offices across the White House are constantly in touch with Congress. This is, again, a very important issue. He led on this issue as a senator. He led as an — on the issue as a Vice President, and he’s going to continue to do so as President.
Q Just — Politico reported last night that the White House — top aides in the White House were growing more comfortable with declaring a public health emergency — sort of a much more narrow version of it — when it came to abortion access. And I wonder if you could shed some light on what the thinking is there and what would be the thinking behind sort of doing that — I think it’s called PREP — versus sort of a broader one.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, as you know, we — we’re not going to go — get into our private discussions that we have in the White House. The President has said, when it comes to abortion and Roe and fighting for the rights and freedoms and privacy of the American public, everything is on the table.
We — I don’t have anything to announce at this time. But the President is going to continue to do everything that he can to protect the rights of women and their reproductive health. He has done that by signing an executive order.
And we’ve seen — we’ve seen announcement from the — HHS. We’ve seen announcements, strong statements from the Department of Justice on what they will do to protect, in particular, women who are — who travel to get that healthcare that they need.
And so we’re — we have — we’re looking at other things that we can do, other meaningful steps that we can take. We just — I just don’t have anything to share specific on that thinking and how we’re going to get to — get to any announcement that we might be making the next couple of days or sooner.
Q Karine, do you have any updated thinking or reaction to a trip by Speaker Pelosi to Taiwan?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have much more to say. I spoke to that yesterday. We’re just not going to speak to any travel.
From what I understand, it has not been locked in. But we refer you to her office for any — anything further.
We continue — as I said yesterday, you know, the United States remains committed to our One China Policy, which is set forth in Taiwan Relations Act, the Three Joint Communiqués, and Six Assurances. This has been a consistent U.S. position for decades across multiple administration. U.S. support for Taino- — Taiwan remains rock solid, principled, bipartisan, and it is in line with our, again, One China Policy and longstanding U.S. commitments.
Q Karine —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah?
Q — can you provide any preview of the President’s message on the gun event tomorrow in Wilkes-Barre? Is he going to announce new actions or have a new message when it comes to the issue?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you know, he’s going to be traveling to Pennsylvania tomorrow to do his crime — crime event. And the President will give remarks on building on the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which he signed into law last month, and how we can further reduce gun crimes and save lives.
So we should have more information to come. We’ll likely have a backgrounder later tonight so that you guys could get some insight on what the — what tomorrow is going to look like and our travels.
Q Just one last thing. And I know you were asked about this yesterday, but I’m just — you know, since it’s such a fast-moving story on both fronts, I just wanted to ask you again. Is there any concern that if you, sort of — that there is a desire internally to declare public health emergencies — like, to declare a climate emergency and a public health emergency a little bit concurrently rather than sort of —
I think that when I talk to people, it seems like you guys will catch a lot of flak from abortion rights activists if there is, you know, a climate emergency that’s rolled out fairly quickly after what happened last week with Manchin and, whereas, you know, there has been a lot of wait and see on the public health emergency.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, on — when it comes to climate change, the per- — the President — you’re going to hear from him today, as Gina just stated, how urgent it is. The urgency is now to do something, and he has been doing — taking action since very early in his administration, and he’ll continue to do that.
When it comes to Roe, when it comes to abortion more specifically, the President has taken action on that and made that a priority since Texas S.B. 8 happened a few months ago. And you’ve heard from our administration there on ways that we were going to — to help to make sure that women are able to make their own decision and get that safe care that they need.
And so, look, everything is on the table. We have not made any decisions yet. I don’t want to get ahead of the policy process. I’m certainly not going to get ahead of the President.
But these are two issues that are priorities for him, that are important for him. You’ve heard from the President directly on Roe and the decision — that extreme decision that SCOTUS made just a couple of weeks ago.
And today you’re going to hear where he is and how he’s going to continue to fight for climate change. Because we got to remember climate change is about our economy, it’s about our national security — all the things that are so important — and our families and how do we make sure that we do everything that we can to protect those things.
All right. Thanks, everybody. I’ll see you on the ground.
1:06 P.M. EDT