7:59 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Happy to do that. First, let me begin by thanking you all for your commitment to the environment.
I think maybe Mark is the only guy in here who knows that way back in the ‘80s, I wrote the first climate bill, and it didn’t go very far. We — we had rai- — (coughs) — excuse me — raised consciousness, but it didn’t go very far.
And let me began by saying: It is the existential threat to humanity. And it’s not hyperbole. And you got a chance to speak to my former — our former Secretary of State, John Kerry, who is as passionate about this as anybody in the world — for real.
We’ve been going around the world trying to make sure that we keep the kind of commitment that the G28 did. At any rate, we — there’s a long way to go, but we’re running into some obstacles that I’m going to need your help on in terms of individuals, as well as circumstances. But we’ll get to that a little bit later.
And, Lise, thank you for — for doing this. You know, it’s great to be with this group again. An awful lot of you here supported the campaign throughout and been with me throughout the first year and a half or so of my administration.
The climate crisis is the existential threat. That’s not hyperbole; it’s a fact. If we don’t keep it to 1.5 degrees Celsius — no warmer than that — we’re going to have — our kids are going to — our grandchildren will never forgive us, and the world will change. I mean, literal sense it will change.
And before we begin the discussion, I have three quick points. One, clean energy is a double-edged sword to deal with the climate crisis. Actually, it’s not even double-edged, it’s a triple-edged sword if we think of it in positive terms.
When I had — years ago, when I was taken to a hospital with an aneurysm, the doctors explained to me what was going through and whether it was environmental or whether it was congenital.
And I said, “Doc, I don’t need to know. It’s going to be okay.” He was operating at me. And he looked at me, and he said, “Your problem, Senator, is you’re a congenital optimist.” Well, in this job, you have to be. I always used to kid Barack, “A country is never going to be more optimistic than its president.” And I am optimistic.
But there are three — three things we can deal with at the same time now: climate crisis, consumer costs, and national security. And they’re not at odds with one another if we look at it the right way; they’re compatible. That’s why we have to pass the other provisions in my Better Back — Build Back America plan.
In advance of our aggressive climate goals, we’re going to cut costs for families — an average of $500 a year. It’s not something anybody at this table worries about, but as my dad used to say, when everything from the price of gasoline to heating your home goes up, it’s a subject at the — at the dinner table. It’s real.
And — and so, that’s why this — my proposal advances aggressive climate goals, tax credits to weatherize homes and businesses, doubling America’s solar wind and — and other energy, lowering the price of electric vehicles, and — and much more.
And in addition, the Russia and Ukraine is another reason why we have to get off our dependency on fossil fuels. Imagine where we’d be right now if, in fact, Europe was in fact energy- free of fossil fuels and was — we were in a situation where — (coughs) — excuse me — where — where we — it was all renewables. It’d be a different world.
And — and so, we have to get off the dependency on fossil fuels — a subject matter I’ve spoken over, I don’t know, 75 to 100 times over the last four months; trying to keep NATO together and the EU. I mean, literally, not figuratively — meaning both here and there. And the dependence of Europe on fossil fuels is — way exceeds any dependence we have.
And so, it’s not an immediate solution to the crisis, but it’s all about the future if we were to change the fossil fuel dependency.
Second thing: I’m going to continue to take executive actions where I can. The Court has overruled me a couple of times. But we created a climate office in the White House to carry out the whole-of-government effort to deal with climate.
I’ve signed executive orders ranging from the most ambitious fuel economy standards for cars and trucks to taking on super-polluting hydrofluorocarbons. And we’re going to continue to be aggressive on the executive front as well.
The third thing is we have to continue to catalyze private investment and bring everybody along, which you all know much more about that than the vast majority of Americans.
And the infrastructure law — it was going to take us a long way. For example, we’re going to provide 500,000 charging stations for electric vehicles; that is motivating both utilities, car companies, and states to invest their own money in deploying these chargers as well.
Ford, General Motors are making historic investments in electric vehicles. GM says they will be 100 percent electric vehicles by — maybe by 2035; Ford says, by 2030, 50 percent of all their vehicles. And this proves we can deal with climate and — crisis — and jobs. This creates a lot of jobs.
And the law also is going to help us build more climate resilience and deal with the record wildfires, floods, droughts, and other ways to get private sector into the game.
I have — I’ve gone to almost every major climate crisis we’ve had in the last year and a half. You know, you all know it, but more land has burned to the ground, including buildings and forest, than the entire square footage of New Jersey, in the West, and — primarily.
And, you know, we’ve had climate resilience to deal with the floods and droughts as well. I mean, now — you know, when the hurricane hit in Louisiana, the 170-mile-an-hour winds — 79-mile-an-hour winds — more people died in Queens from flooding than they died in that hurricane. Because when I went up there and visited — people went to their basements because of tornadoes and rain — 20 inches of rain. They — it flooded their basements; couldn’t get out, and died.
And so, you know, it’s another way to get the private sector into the game as well. Every place I go, the private sector is wanting to talk about what they can do and what they want to work with me to get done.
And — and, by the way, that brings everyone in: the labor unions; urban, rural and Tribal communities as well; and our young people — this is their generational cause. And so that’s the coalition we need to put together — business, labor, and — and including Tribal communities, and just the whole generation of young people who are — for example, my wi- — my daughter is a social worker. She is — runs a lot of Boys & Girls Clubs around the — anyway, I called her tonight to tell her I love her. And her father-in-law is ill. And she said, “Dad, you’re talking about climate, right? Talking about climate.” And dad is talking about climate.
So the coalition we need to bring — bring together — is going to need your help. And — and there’s a lot more to say.
But rather than that, since I have a call with a foreign leader — I must leave by 8:40 at the latest — I — why don’t we get on with what you want to do ne- — tell me how you want to proceed?
And so, I’m supposed to turn it over to Nat right now. They told me — that’s what I’m told.
(The press departs.)
8:09 P.M. EDT