President Joe Biden is taking several new executive actions aimed at battling climate change, protecting the environment, and supporting science, clean energy, and disadvantaged communities.
The actions, which were taken January 27, underscore the Biden administration’s dedication to tackling climate issues. They build on executive orders signed on Biden’s first day in office, including rejoining the Paris climate agreement, blocking the Keystone XL pipeline, and reviewing environmental policy rollbacks issued by the Trump administration.
The actions also help advance Biden’s goals to achieve a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035 and a net-zero economy by 2050.
According to a White House fact sheet, the executive orders call on federal agencies to lead by example and solidify climate considerations as a critical, government-wide part of U.S. foreign policy and national security.
The orders direct federal agencies to procure carbon-free electricity and zero-emission vehicles, although specific procurement goals are sparse. To help spur job creation, those purchases also must be made in America, following Biden’s recent Buy American executive order.
The climate-focused orders further direct federal agencies to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies as consistent with applicable law and identify ways to make federal operations more resilient to climate-related impacts. All agencies must develop strategies for integrating climate considerations into their international work.
In another effort to create jobs in construction, manufacturing, engineering, and skilled trades, the orders direct every federal infrastructure investment to reduce pollution, and that steps be taken to accelerate clean energy and transmission projects under federal siting and permitting processes in an environmentally sustainable manner.
The orders also establish a moratorium on new oil and gas leases on federal lands. That is a stark contrast to pro-drilling policies backed by the Trump administration.
The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) will be tasked with reviewing all existing leasing and permitting practices related to fossil fuel development on public lands and waters. DOI is also directed to identify ways to double renewable energy production from offshore wind by 2030.
To further help protect and restore public lands, the orders establish various working groups and set a goal of conserving at least 30% of U.S. lands and oceans by 2030.
Given that the Biden administration aims to transition the country away from fossil fuels, the orders create an interagency working group to coordinate investments and other revitalization efforts to assist U.S. communities reliant on coal, oil and natural gas, and power plants.
Another key aspect of Biden’s climate plans is environmental justice.
According to the White House fact sheet, the orders create new councils and direct federal agencies to develop programs, policies, and activities to address and identify the disproportionate health, environmental, economic, and climate impacts on disadvantaged communities. That includes a government-wide Justice40 Initiative with the goal of delivering 40% of the overall benefits of relevant federal investments to such communities.
To help Biden meet his climate change goals, the executive orders establish a host of new government groups.
The White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy, led by the first-ever National Climate Advisor and Deputy National Climate Advisor, will serve as a central office in the White House charged with coordinating and implementing the president’s domestic climate agenda.
The National Climate Task Force will assemble leaders from across 21 federal agencies and departments to enable a whole-of-government approach to combatting the climate crisis.
In an effort to elevate climate in U.S. foreign policy, the president created the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, which will have a seat on the National Security Council.
Biden also made it clear he believes the federal government should embrace the scientific community and make decisions using the best-available data and technology.
To that end, the new Presidential Memorandum on Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking directs agencies to ensure and review “scientific integrity” and designate chief science officers.
The executive orders also re-establish the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, which will be co-chaired by the President’s Science Advisor and will advise Biden on related policies.
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