Joe Biden ran for president on the most ambitious climate platform in history, and so far he’s living up to that promise. One clean energy expert who joined the administration said the president’s “ambition is breathtaking.” Here are five highlights:
1. Assembled world leaders and raised the U.S. target for cutting climate pollution
The U.S. is back. After four years of wondering what happened to U.S. climate action, the world is now racing to keep up. Biden convened world leaders for a climate summit on Earth Day, putting them on the spot to increase the pace of action. Most importantly, he committed to an ambitious new U.S. target for cutting climate pollution — 50-52% below 2005 levels by 2030. That’s almost double what we promised in the Paris Agreement.
2. Appointed a superstar team
In Washington they say “personnel is policy,” meaning what you achieve depends on whom you appoint. Politico calls Biden’s team his “climate all-stars,” and many came straight from jobs as advocates. Gina McCarthy, former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, is the “climate czarina” in the White House. Michael Regan, who was a state environment leader, is EPA chief. Former Secretary of State John Kerry, one of the architects of the Paris Agreement, is Biden’s envoy for climate. And below them are scores of experts and advocates who went from demanding government action to being the government: They are now in a position to push bold action.
3. Put his political capital behind the biggest jobs plan ever
Biden says, “When I think about climate change, I think about jobs.” His $2.7 trillion American Jobs Plan will rebuild a much cleaner U.S. economy. It proposes billions for the transition to electric vehicles and clean electricity, support for clean manufacturing and more. It would be the most ambitious climate plan ever, creating millions of jobs.
4. Prioritized environmental justice
For too long, unjust policy decisions — like where to build highways and factories — meant more pollution for Black, Latino, Asian, Native American and other communities that have been historically marginalized. Addressing this injustice and achieving equity is key to dealing with climate change. Biden has committed to ensuring that 40% of the benefits from investments flow to disadvantaged communities. He has also established a White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council and a White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council.
5. Started rolling back Trump’s harmful environmental rules
At Biden’s request, Congress is preparing to eliminate Trump’s weak rule on methane pollution, in order to create much stronger protections. He reestablished states’ ability to have stricter air pollution rules. He’s reversed or halted Trump actions on drilling on public lands, EPA scientific standards, climate assessments in project planning and more. The administration has overturned or targeted Trump environmental actions at a pace of one per day, so far.
Here’s what Biden should do next
The president is off to a great start. Now, it’s time for him to:
- Pass that big jobs and climate bill: Biden needs to get the American Jobs Plan passed and make sure the pro-climate provisions remain a major part of it. The final plan needs to be big on clean power and transportation to achieve the new U.S. target of cutting climate pollution by 50-52% by 2030.
- Propose strong rules to limit pollution from vehicles: Transportation is the largest source of U.S. climate pollution. There’s already great private-sector momentum toward clean electric vehicles, but we need leadership from Washington — including a clear timetable and strong limits on a range of pollutants from trucks, buses and cars — to accelerate that shift.
- Limit methane pollution: Reducing methane pollution quickly could slow the rate of global warming by as much as 30%. We need bold U.S. regulatory and congressional action to put a lid on leaky oil and gas equipment that emits methane and seal abandoned wells. To cut methane emissions globally, Biden can lead a diplomatic effort that brings together large gas producers with major gas buyers, such as Europe, China and Japan.
- Invest in nature-based climate solutions: Communities across the U.S. are increasingly experiencing the devastating impacts of extreme weather that climate change makes worse. By advancing a national climate resilience strategy that includes investments in large-scale natural infrastructure that protects communities, such as restored wetlands and floodplains, Biden’s administration can reduce the impacts and costs of future disasters, while creating local jobs.
This decade is our last best chance to avert the worst impacts of the climate crisis. It’s clear we now have a president who knows that.
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