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What is a climate emergency and why might President Biden declare it?

With major environmental issues gripping Europe, the White House could use executive powers to introduce meaningful action on climate change.

Biden considers declaring a climate emergency

President Joe Biden is reportedly considering declaring a national climate emergency in response to the record high temperatures record in Europe and concern over climate change globally. A number of nations have surpassed their historic highs in what experts are warning could be a glimpse into the climate of the future.

The Washington Post is reporting that Biden is weighing up the possibility of declaring the situation a climate emergency, a move which would give him greater powers to take executive action to tackle climate change. Earlier this week two Senate Democrats called on Biden to use the Defense Production Act to boost the production of renewable energy technologies to address the worrying trend.

What is a climate emergency?

On Tuesday the United Kingdom surpassed its highest ever recorded temperature, topping 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) for the first time. Wildfires have been seen across the south of the country and a major incident was declared in London after a raft of fires in the capital.

Wildfires have also been seen across Portugal, Greece and Spain, forcing thousands of people to evacuate their homes. In recent days more than 1,000 deaths in Spain and Portugal have been attributed to the extraordinary heat. In the coming days Belgium and Germany are both expected to reach 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).

In response, many have called on global leaders to declare a climate emergency to allow them to better address the situation.

Environmental group The Climate Mobilization define the declaration of a climate emergency as: “A piece of legislation passed by a governing body such as a city council, a county board of supervisors, a state legislature, or even a national government.”

It puts the government on record in support of taking emergency action to reverse global warming.”

Biden to announce new executive orders to tackle climate change

It is not yet clear if Biden will declare a climate emergency, but Reuters reports that the President will unveil new executive orders addressing the environment in a planned speech on Wednesday. He will travel to Somerset, Massachusetts and is expected to announce new incentives for green alternatives and potentially greater restrictions for carbon-producing practices.

This has been necessitated by the recent news that key Democratic Senator Joe Manchin would not support economic legislation that included any significant climate provisions. Manchin’s vote is vital for the Democrats to pass legislation in the evenly divided Senate and his refusal to vote for meaningful action has scuppered Biden’s ambitious green agenda.