Jan 28, 2021: President Biden Puts Climate at the Core

First off, the moment we face is recognized: ” We have a narrow moment to pursue action at home and abroad in order to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of that crisis and to seize the opportunity that tackling climate change presents,” he White House documents states in its opening paragraph. Then goes on to say that climate will be “an essential element of United States foreign policy and national security.”

There’s a lot in here.

Ambitious goals: achieve net-zero emissions, economy-wide, by no later than 2050,  a carbon pollution-free electricity sector no later than 2035, doubling offshore wind by 2030, conserving at least 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030.

Getting back together with the other players: Paris Agreement, Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, UN Climate Change Conference, Montreal Agreement. In addition, reinstating the White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy.

Upping the leadership: John Kerry as Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, Leaders’ Climate Summit, National Climate Task Force, Civilian Climate Corp,  Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization (Interagency Working Group), White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council (Interagency Council).

And you thought Elizabeth Warren had plans: Finance Plan due in 90 days, the Direction of National Intelligence has 120 days for a security impact plan. Likewise, the Secretary of Defense being tasked as well with Climate Risk Analysis. There’s specific asks for the Secretary of Energy and the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security.

Protection for public lands: support for renewables, pause (for now) on fossil fuels

Power of the purse: to increase clean energy sector, reduce subsidizing fossil fuels

For workers: rebuilding infrastructure; advancing conservation, agriculture and reforestation, revitalizing energy communities (hard-hit by policies of extractive industries, for example)

Environmental Justice: a detailed and discreet plank including a White House council. One example of what’s in this section: “the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality shall, within 6 months of the date of this order, create a geospatial Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool and shall annually publish interactive maps highlighting disadvantaged communities.”

The fine print: “This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.” Yes, still need to figure out how to pay for all of this.

I know there’s a lot of “watch this space,” but isn’t it nice that it is being filled with plans to be based on science and staffed by professionals with an appreciation of the climate as crisis. Attention is being paid!