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Global climate summit to prove ‘America’s back in the driver’s seat,’ Michael Regan says

The Biden administration is preparing to host 40 world leaders in a two-day virtual global climate change summit aimed at tackling that threat, overturning President Trump's environmental policies, and reasserting America's leadership on the world stage. The new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Michael Regan, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the summit, and America's plan.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The Biden administration is just hours away from hosting some 40 world leaders in a two-day virtual global climate change summit aimed at tackling that threat, overturning President Trump's environmental policies, and reasserting America's leadership on the issue on the world stage.

    Michael Regan is the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. He's one of several administration officials participating in the summit. And he joins me now.

    Administrator Regan, welcome to the "NewsHour." Thank you for joining us.

    There are news reports saying that what President Biden is planning to do is cut — order a cut in emissions in the U.S. — in the United States of more than half of what they are by the year 2030.

    That's ambitious. Why is it necessary?

  • Michael Regan:

    You know, the president has established from day one that we're facing a climate crisis. It's necessary for this country to be ambitious.

    But the president is rallying the world to be ambitious. And the announcement he will make tomorrow concerning our country's goals will be ambitious, and we're all excited about his leadership.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We know this is going to require some dramatic changes, ramping up renewable sources of energy, cutting back on the kind of transportation that Americans are used to.

    Specifically, how hard is this going to be to do and what — I mean, 2030 is not even nine years away.

  • Michael Regan:

    You know, it's an ambitious goal, but the times call for it. We're facing a climate crisis.

    But when the president thinks about climate change and the climate crisis, he also thinks about jobs. This is a significant opportunity for America to not only lead, but create millions of jobs. We have the technology, we have the ingenuity, we have the desire to move in this direction. And the markets are driving us there as well.

    So, while it is a big challenge, it's not impossible.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    On the one hand, Administrator Regan, it's ambitious. On the other hand, it's a nonbinding goal.

    So, how do you plan to get the private sector in this country to go along with changes that many of them are going to see in the short term as hurting them in the pocketbook?

  • Michael Regan:

    This president has been engaging corporate America and the private sector from day one.

    In many instances, the private sector is calling on this administration for this type of leadership. We're setting goals. We're establishing a framework. And we're leveraging the market potential and technological advancements that will make America a leader, not only on the global stage in terms of tackling the climate crisis, but globally competitive economically as well.

    So, we have got a lot of American men and women, businessmen and women, who are rallying for this as well — or rallying around this as well.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I want to read to you a comment from a leading Republican senator on these issues.

    He's Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming. He's the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

    He said this is a pledge that would set what he calls punishing targets for the United States, while he says America's adversaries, like China and Russia, in his words, continue to increase emissions at will.

    And he also said: "The last thing the economy needs is higher energy prices and fewer jobs, but that's exactly what we're going to get."

  • Michael Regan:

    You know, I just disagree with that premise, which is why we have organizations like the American Petroleum Institute, Edison Electric institute, and others calling for controlling, deep controlling methane emissions, looking at unleashing technology that not only we can use domestically to cut our carbon footprint, but we can export these technologies internationally to countries like China and Russia and India.

    This is a real opportunity for American job creation. But it's also an opportunity to harness the advancements in technologies, where we can look at leveraging cutting emissions, while expanding, expanding our global footprint internationally from a technological advancement standpoint.

    And so this is about creating jobs. This is about advanced technologies. This is about global markets, and, more importantly, it's about combating the climate crisis.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And I hear you saying that much of the private sector is on board, they want change. But not all in the private sector are on board.

    How do you plan to get companies, business leaders who don't want to go along with this to go along?

  • Michael Regan:

    We have to continually engage.

    The president's leadership has been exemplary in terms of engaging those who are not quite convinced that this is the direction we need to go, whether it's the — some individuals in the corporate sector who are not quite convinced or some of our Republican colleagues who are not quite convinced.

    Everyone needs to see themselves in this vision. So, we're trying to paint an inclusive picture of how this serves as a rising tide, from our disadvantaged communities, to our corporate interests. There are jobs, there are economic opportunities, there are health benefits, there are climate benefits.

    This is an ambitious challenge for us, but we're ready for it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    How do you expect the summit over the next two days to change the conversation on this? What do you expect will come out of this summit?

  • Michael Regan:

    Well, listen, the president is rallying world leaders.

    Number one, it establishes that America is back in the driver's seat, back in that leadership position. There will be ambitious goals announced by a number of world leaders tomorrow. I am really excited about facilitating a panel of elected officials, mayors, governors, indigenous leaders from all around the world, discussing how we all tackle the climate crisis, while taking care of the most vulnerable and creating millions of jobs while doing so.

    I believe that tomorrow's summit is going to reinvigorate this conversation worldwide, and we're going to be off to the races.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we have seen, just finally, Mr. Regan, the previous administration under President Trump, of course, reversing a number of climate initiatives under the — under President Obama.

    You now, and President Biden, are undoing what happened in the previous administration. But how much has been lost or not — what has not happened as a result of the last four years?

  • Michael Regan:

    Well, Judy, there's no doubt that we lost a step during the last four years.

    Our scientific integrity took a hit. Our ability to harness and grasp technological advancements took a hit. But the good thing about America, the good thing about my employees at EPA, we're resilient. We're going to make up for that lost time.

    And the president is leading the charge. And what I can say is, he's leading the charge. And every time he thinks about the climate crisis, he's thinking about jobs. Every time he thinks about jobs, he's thinking about the climate crisis.

    With this attitude, it will serve as a rising tide, and I believe we will regain the momentum that we lost during the last four years.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, we will certainly be reporting on the summit in the next — over the next two days.

    Michael Regan, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, thank you very much.

  • Michael Regan:

    Thank you.

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