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Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, looking ahead at U.S. President Joe Biden’s climate address, Sri Lanka’s new president, the far-right’s chance to chart Italy’s political future, and the penultimate round of the U.K. Conservative Party contest.

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, looking ahead at U.S. President Joe Biden’s climate address, Sri Lanka’s new president, the far-right’s chance to chart Italy’s political future, and the penultimate round of the U.K. Conservative Party contest.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.

Biden Goes It Alone on Climate

Just days after Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin appeared to scuttle hopes of moving climate policy through Congress, U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to lay out his plans to push some measures forward through executive action in a speech today in Massachusetts.

Biden’s focus on the issue comes as the price of inaction is already apparent. The world is experiencing intense heat waves, which climate scientists have forecast will become more frequent in a warming world: Over the past week, Britain recorded its highest-ever temperature, 100 million Americans were under a heat warning or advisory, and Portugal and Spain recorded a total of 1,700 heat-related deaths.

Biden’s speech will also take place at a time when fossil fuels are seeing a resurgence, as high prices of oil and gas as well as supply chain worries prompt a return to coal.

The coal comeback isn’t just in the West. In China, currently the world’s largest carbon emitter, government approvals for new coal-powered plants have increased dramatically this year—in line with the country’s goal of ramping up emissions to peak in 2030.

For Biden and the Democratic Party, time to act on climate may be running out. A victory for the Republican Party in November’s midterm elections would end any hopes of further legislative action, while a return of Donald Trump to the White House after the 2024 election (a possibility within the margin of error in a recent poll) would similarly halt any hopes of progress.

Fresh momentum is needed if the United States is to meet the goals it set alongside 195 other countries when it signed on to the 2015 Paris Agreement. According to the energy research firm Rhodium Group, the status quo is nowhere close to cutting it. Current estimates put the United States on course to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent (at best) by 2030, far short of its 50 percent goal.

Leah Stokes, a climate policy expert at the University of California, Santa Barbara, expressed optimism that the door to U.S. climate action was not yet closed. “President Biden can use executive authority to make significant progress on climate,” Stokes told Foreign Policy. “It’s not going to be as substantive as what we would have gotten through budget reconciliation, but it’s still absolutely crucial.”

Biden’s best bet for forcing through policies to lower carbon emissions is through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Stricter emissions regulations on cars could help speed a transition to electric vehicles, (an urgent task seeing as 27 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions came from transportation in 2020), while tightening regulations around other non-carbon pollutants in the country’s power plants could help hasten a move to cleaner energy production (and stay within the limits set by the Supreme Court’s recent EPA ruling).

As the climate advocacy group Evergreen Action has written, other U.S. agencies can also get involved: The Department of the Interior can shut down new fossil fuel exploration on U.S. soil, while the Treasury Department could force publicly traded companies to more clearly disclose the emissions impacts of their businesses—a move designed to give investors a better understanding of where to put their money.

What he won’t do is declare a climate emergency, a move activists and some senior Democratic senators have called for. Invoking emergency powers would allow Biden more leeway in a number of areas—from boosting renewable energy to blocking fossil fuel projects—and even reinstating a ban on crude oil exports.

“It’s not on the table for this week,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said of the emergency declaration. “We are still considering it. I don’t have the upsides or the downsides of it.”

What We’re Following Today

Draghi decides. Both chambers of the Italian Parliament hold votes of confidence in the government today, a week after Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s offer of resignation was rejected by President Sergio Mattarella. Draghi is expected to address Parliament today; it’s not yet clear whether Draghi has cobbled together a workable coalition or still plans to resign. If Draghi does resign and triggers early elections, polls show that Giorgia Meloni, the leader of the far-right Brothers of Italy party, is likely to become his successor.

In 2019, Giorgio Ghiglione profiled the post-fascist Meloni for Foreign Policy, arguing that “with [Silvio] Berlusconi in decline—she would have a chance of becoming the new face of the Italian right.”

Sri Lanka’s next president. The Sri Lankan Parliament selected caretaker President Ranil Wickremesinghe as the country’s next president today following the resignation of Gotabaya Rajapaksa last week. Wickremesinghe defeated former journalist Dullas Alahapperuma in a 134-82 vote. More protests are expected in response to the news; many opponents of the government fear that Wickremesinghe will protect the Rajapaksa family from facing accountability.

Keep an Eye On The Xinjiang report. China is mounting a diplomatic push to stop outgoing U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet from publishing the findings of a report on human rights violations written as part of her May visit to Xinjiang, home to China’s Uyghur minority. Bachelet had been criticized for her apparent soft tone while on the trip, but China’s moves suggest the final report could embarrass Beijing. A letter seen by Reuters urges Bachelet to refrain from publishing the report, lest it intensify “politicization and bloc confrontation in the area of human rights, undermine the credibility of the OHCHR (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights), and harm the cooperation between OHCHR and member states.”

Britain’s next prime minister. The U.K. Conservative Party’s search for its next leader—and Britain’s next prime minister—enters its penultimate round today. Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, junior trade minister Penny Mordaunt, and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss are the only remaining candidates after the field was whittled down from eight contenders. Sunak, who has topped each vote so far, is expected to go through to the final round, leaving Mordaunt and Truss to compete for the final spot.

Polling from YouGov suggests that both Mordaunt and Truss would comfortably defeat Sunak in a head-to-head race. The winner will be announced following a vote by party members that concludes on Sept. 5.

Odds and Ends Canada’s health agency has recalled more than 10 million packs of cigarettes over fears that they could cause an “increased fire hazard.”

Health Canada made the declaration after it found that three brands of cigarettes did not meet “performance standards,” which included only burning down their full length “no more than 25 percent of the time.”

Like its neighbor to the south, Canada requires cigarettes to be of “reduced ignition propensity” in a bid to cut down on one of the leading causes of house fires.