One week after being sworn in to the presidency, Joe Biden is expanding on a range of existing climate actions with a raft of new Executive Orders signed today that add momentum to climate action in the US, including a focus on jobs, renewables and environmental justice.
“Today is ‘Climate Day’ at the White House. Which means that today is ‘Jobs’ day at the White House”, said President Joe Biden, in a press conference on Wednesday (US time). Climate envoy John Kerry, incoming Environmental Protection Administrator Gina McCarthy and Biden all focused heavily on jobs in their respective remarks to the press.
“It is now cheaper to deal with the crisis of climate than to leave it,” said Climate Envoy John Kerry. “We’re spending the money folks, we’re just not doing it in a way that’s smart and will sustain us for a long time”. He added that workers “have been fed a false narrative – no surprise – for the last few years. They’ve been fed the notion that somehow dealing with climate is coming at their expense. What’s happening to them is happening b/c of other market forces already taking place”.
Kerry also added that many workers suffering the health impacts of coal mining could work in industries like solar installations. Transitioning workers and communities away from highly polluting industries and towards new, clean industries will likely become the underlying theme for climate action within the Biden administration in coming years.
The Executive Orders include a pause on new oil and gas leases on public lands or offshore waters, an increase in renewable energy on those lands, an attempt to repair damage to US agencies by mandating evidence-based decision making and guidance based on the best scientific information and data, and the creation of several new government advisory bodies. 40% of overall benefits of federal investments will go to disadvantaged communities and will be tracked through the creation of an ‘environmental justice’ scorecard. Federal government subsidies to fossil fuels will end, a ‘civilian climate corps’ will be established, and the Kigali Amendment to phase out highly polluting substances will be ratified. Foreign investment of fossil projects will also end. Production from offshore wind will double by 2030.
“When we think of renewable energy, we think of American manufacturing – American workers racing to lead the global market”, said President Joe Biden. “We’ll take steps towards my goal of achieving 100% carbon pollution free electric sector by 2035…[it] will be a tremendous spur to job creation and economic competitiveness in the 21st century, not to mention the benefits to our health and environment. Already 84% of capacity planned to come onto the grid this year is clean energy…because it’s affordable”.
The EO also directs federal agencies to end fossil fuel subsidies.
"Unlike previous administrations, I don't think the federal government should be giving handouts to Big Oil to the tune of $40 billion in annual subsidies" — POTUS 46https://t.co/48Jary8227
— Maddie Stone (@themadstone) January 27, 2021
Biden is also focusing on ensuring fossil communities are not left behind. “That includes helping revitalise the economies of coal, oil and gas power plant communities. We have to start by creating new good paying jobs capping those abandoned wells”, said Biden.
The EPA Administrator said the US would announce its 2030 Paris target updates prior to Earth day, which is April 22 this year. This raft of new Executive Orders and announcements will add further pressure on both Australia’s government and the federal opposition to ramp up climate ambitions, as much of the world continues to take significant steps in updating their climate ambitions while rolling out new technologies to reduce emissions, such as record additions of wind and solar in Europe.
Climate Envoy John Kerry highlighted that the US will be taking an aggressive position on climate, with regards to geopolitical negotiations. “[Biden] knows that Paris alone is not enough. Not when almost 90% of all of the planet’s global emissions come from outside of US borders. We could go to zero tomorrow and the problem isn’t solved. [Biden’s Executive Orders ensure] that ambitious climate action is global in scope and scale as well as national here at home”. Kerry recently invoked Australia’s bushfire crisis when talking about climate and criticised the notion of gas as a ‘transition fuel’.