Good morning! Whether you went apple-picking or sat on the couch, we hope you had a great fall weekend. But first:

Pete Buttigieg is back and ready to cut emissions

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has faced a flurry of criticism from Republicans for taking paid parental leave with his husband and two newborns.

But Buttigieg wants to refocus the conversation on another topic entirely: climate change.

Inevitably, every transportation decision is a climate decision, whether we acknowledge it or not,” Buttigieg said in an interview with The Climate 202. “So I think that's absolutely part of our mandate and part of our set of responsibilities as a department.”

The Climate 202 spoke with Buttigieg on Thursday afternoon, just hours before Fox News host Tucker Carlson mocked the transportation secretary for going on paternity leave during massive supply chain disruptions, The Post's Ian Duncan and Mariana Alfaro reported.

  • Republican Sen. Tom Cotton (Ark.) piled on to the criticism, tweeting that Buttigieg was “absent during a transportation crisis that is hurting working-class Americans.”
  • Democrats called Carlson's comments homophobic and sought to use the moment to push for paid parental leave in their massive tax-and-spending package.

Buttigieg told The Climate 202 that becoming a father has “really reinforced what I used to believe intellectually but I now understand from experience, which is the need for our country to do a better job of supporting parents. And obviously that's a big part of the president's vision, too.”

DOT and emissions

Pivoting away from parenting, Buttigieg said the Department of Transportation will work to slash carbon emissions from the transportation sector, which recently surpassed the power sector as the country's largest source of greenhouse gases.

Cars and trucks account for the bulk of the sector's pollution, according to data from the Environmental Protection Agency. And in addition to boosting electric-vehicle adoption, Buttigieg said DOT will help more Americans ditch their cars for lower-carbon alternatives such as mass transit, biking and walking.

“We have to make cars clean, which is what EVs can do, and we have to give people good transportation alternatives,” he said. “I often say you shouldn't have to take two tons of metal along with you everywhere you go.”

Beyond cars and trucks, Buttigieg said aviation and shipping are two of the hardest parts of the economy to decarbonize, given that airplanes need high-density fuel and ships run on heavy oil.

Electrification is not a short-term alternative for fueling jets and maritime, which are getting more attention now because of the supply chain issue but are also a really important part —  and frankly a difficult part — of the climate conversation, he said.

Asked to identify specific steps DOT is taking to reduce emissions from transportation, Buttigieg said the department is encouraging the use of sustainable aviation fuels, making climate “much more explicit” in its grant programs, and reactivating a climate center within DOT that was dormant during the Trump administration. He declined to offer new details about forthcoming regulations.

Infrastructure bill, COP26

A roughly $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill in Congress is being delayed as progressives refuse to vote on it until the passage of a massive tax-and-spending package, which they say would do more to combat climate change.

Buttigieg said he thinks the infrastructure bill has strong climate provisions that shouldn't be overlooked. “I keep reminding even friends in the climate community that there are things in this bill that may not have the word climate in them” but would reduce emissions, he said. “Let's be clear, this is the first infrastructure bill to have a climate subtitle, so it's very explicit.”

President Biden faces pressure to sign robust climate legislation before he attends a United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, next month. Buttigieg will be one of 13 Cabinet secretaries who travel to the conference, known as COP26, the White House announced Friday.

Buttigieg said he is confident the United States will have a strong showing at the summit, even as the White House seeks to scale back a central climate provision in the tax-and-spending package — and as climate envoy John F. Kerry looks to tamp down expectations.

I think we are arriving in Glasgow with a sense that America is back in leadership, and backing that up with actions at home for us to be credibly urging other countries to come along, Buttigieg said.

On the Hill

The White House is still trying to salvage a key climate provision for the power sector

White House aides are continuing to look for ways to scale back the central climate provision in the social spending bill to appease moderate coal-state Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), The Post's Tony Romm, Jeff Stein and Tyler Pager reported Saturday.

The fight revolves around the Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP), which would reward utilities that increase their share of clean energy by 4 percent a year, while penalizing those that do not. 

The backstory: The fate of the CEPP has been highly uncertain over the past few days, causing heartburn for climate activists who say the program is key to meeting Biden's ambitious climate goals.

But my Post colleagues reported Saturday that the White House is continuing to search for alternatives that would get Manchin onboard, including a voluntary emissions trading system for manufacturers.

“One of the ideas under consideration would establish a scaled-back voluntary emissions trading system among aluminum, steel, concrete and chemicals manufacturers that would provide federal funding to help companies curb pollution, according to two people close to the negotiations,” my colleagues reported.

As Manchin blocks Democrats’ climate plans, data shows West Virginians face climate risk

New data shows that West Virginia is more exposed to flood damage than any other state within the contiguous United States, the Times’s Christopher Flavelle reports. The data from the nonprofit First Street Foundation reveals that West Virginia has the highest percentage of power stations, fire stations and police stations that would be damaged by a 100-year flood.

“Mr. Manchin has rejected any plan to move the country away from fossil fuels because he said it would harm West Virginia, a top producer of coal and gas,” Flavelle writes. “But when it comes to climate, there’s also an economic toll from inaction. The new data shows that Mr. Manchin’s constituents stand to suffer disproportionately as climate change intensifies.”

Environmental groups are urging Schumer to hold off on FERC nominee hearing

Thirty-three climate and conservation groups wrote to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) urging him to ensure that Willie L. Phillips Jr., Biden’s pick to serve as a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission commissioner, responds to questions about liquefied natural gas terminals before his hearing with the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. The questions from retired Lt. General Russel L. Honoré request details on how Phillips will determine the future of 19 proposed liquefied natural gas terminals along Louisiana's coast.

Countdown to COP26

Obama to attend Glasgow climate summit

Obama will go to Glasgow

Former president Barack Obama is planning to attend COP26, CNN’s Jeff Zeleny and Kate Sullivan report. The former president will meet with youth climate activists and deliver a speech that highlights the progress made since the 2015 Paris agreement while urging more aggressive action on the climate crisis, an Obama spokesperson told CNN.

Extreme events

The final days in a FEMA camp show the challenges for those displaced by climate disasters

The Post’s Hannah Dreier tells the story of the final days of a trailer park housing the survivors of the 2018 Camp Fire, the worst wildfire in California’s history, as the Federal Emergency Management Agency prepares to shut down the site.

FEMA largely turned away from creating trailer parks to house disaster survivors after Hurricane Katrina, experimenting instead with emergency repairs to damaged homes and rental subsidies. Under the Trump administration, however, the agency returned to the practice of building trailer parks, arguing that the alternatives were too expensive.

Climate change is threatening access to Denali National Park

Hundreds of thousands of visitors flock each year to Alaska's most popular national park, which has just one road going in and out. But now, warming temperatures are accelerating the slide of a rocky glacier that lies underneath one of the 92-mile road’s most precipitous points, Nathaniel Herz writes for The Post.

Federal officials are analyzing a plan to bridge the slide, but it could interfere with Alaska's tourism economy for at least the next few years. It's an example of how climate change has destabilized the economy and infrastructure of the nation's fastest-warming state, even as Alaska's elected leaders continue to promote more oil drilling.

Climate solutions

Prince William announced winners of his environmental prize

Five winners on Sunday received 1 million pounds ($1.37 million) each at the inaugural awards ceremony for Prince William's Earthshot Prize, “a kind of Oscars for green projects that the British royal hopes will highlight creative solutions to the world's most pressing environmental challenges,” The Post's Karla Adam reports.

Among the winners were the Republic of Costa Rica, which paid its citizens to protect its forests, and a team from the Bahamas that grows coral farms on land that can be replanted in oceans.

Viral

The Charlie Brown football gag meets climate politics:

Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.