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9 things the Biden administration could do against climate change

By Harriet Piercy

Nov 10, 2020


President-elect Joe Biden is currently campaigning for the most ambitious climate plan any presidential candidate in history has ever presented, promising to spend $2 trillion over four years to cut down planet warming fossil fuel emissions and convert much of the US to using clean and sustainable energy. On the first day of Biden’s administration, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), there will only be nine years left to stop the worst consequences of climate change.

There still is a possibility that the Senate will remain under the Republicans’ control, who have generally opposed climate legislation in the past, putting Biden’s plans on an uncertain trajectory. However, with or without Democratic control of the Senate, the first 100 days of the Biden administration are in for a series of executive actions that aim to directly address climate change and push clean energy provisions forward nonetheless. Here are 9 things Biden plans for his early days of presidency.

1. Rejoin the Paris Agreement

Biden has pledged throughout his presidential campaign that on the very first day that he takes his place in the office, he will recommit the US to the global agreement on climate change. This only requires a letter of intention and promise to the United Nations and would take effect 30 days later.

2. Convene global leaders

A ‘climate world summit’ will be assembled by Biden to press leaders of big industrial nations to cut down their greenhouse gas emissions far more aggressively than in recent years.

3. Reverse energy rollbacks

The Biden administration will be expected to rescind a large number of President Trump’s executive orders on energy, particularly his calling on every federal agency to dismantle their climate policies. Biden is likely to change things up once more by declaring his administration’s intention to cut greenhouse gases and instruct all government agencies to look for more ways to do so.

4. Make climate part of coronavirus relief

Biden intends to push clean energy provisions in any new economic stimulus measures that congress considers in future, such as research and development funding for clean energy, money for states to continue their renewable energy expansion and an extension of tax credits for renewable energy industries.

5. Sign executive orders to cut emissions

Biden indicated that early in his administration, he will sign the executive orders that instruct agencies to develop new methane limits for oil and gas wells, to reinstate and strengthen fuel economy standards, and to tighten efficiency standards for appliances and buildings. Developing and finalising these new regulations will take time, and these also have the potential to be struck down by the conservative majority on the Supreme Court, but one can hope.

6. Hold polluters accountable

Biden’s first day is looking like an incredibly large to-do list, because he has also promised that on the first day of his administration, he would sign an executive order requiring public companies to disclose climate change-related financial risks in their operations.

7. Revise current rules on fossil fuel production

Biden is expected to cancel a 2017 executive order to lift restrictions on offshore energy exploration and production. He could also stop the Trump administration’s rushed reviews of pipelines and other fossil fuel projects.

8. Prioritise environmental justice

By addressing the effects of pollution and global warming in low income communities, a Biden administration could create an environmental justice advisory board that would coordinate policies across agencies and take concrete steps towards monitoring vulnerable communities suffering from pollution, such as expending the efforts to help miners detect black lung disease, increase access to care, and by creating mapping tools to better understand disparities. Biden plans to stand with communities and workers that have been impacted by the changing energy market.

9. Restore wildlife areas

Biden has pledged to take immediate steps to reverse damage to America’s natural treasures by permanently protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other areas impacted by President Trump’s action on federal lands and waters. He will also ban new oil and gas leasing on public lands and waters and sign an executive order to conserve 30 per cent of the US by 2030

Big promises, and hopefully big action in the not-so-distant future. The ball is in your court, Biden—show us what you got.