Written by: Allie Willison Customer Experience @Blueland
With a new Presidential administration and a new Congress, there are a lot of interesting policy implications. The incoming administration will have numerous policy priorities to balance, but climate change is expected to be high on the agenda.
President Elect Joe Biden has laid out a detailed plan for addressing climate change in his Biden Plan. His plan is the most ambitious climate plan that any president has put forth to date. He is expected to signal his commitment to his climate agenda early in his presidency, starting by rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement.
The Trump Administration’s Climate Legacy
The Trump Administration repealed or weakened 125 environmental regulations over the course of four years. Some previously protected lands were signed away for fossil fuel development, leaving areas once untouched by oil companies open to drilling. Most recently the Trump administration auctioned off oil and gas leases in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, leaving the environment vulnerable to impacts of oil and gas drilling.
President Biden’s Climate Plan
As one of his first actions, Biden plans to lead the U.S. to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement. However, the Biden Administration will have to send an updated plan for reducing our emissions.
Biden’s plan is clear that he will lead us to cut carbon emissions from the electricity sector by 2035 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, aligned with goals outlined in the Paris Climate Agreement. With the new Congress, these measures are expected to pass a vote. However, even if these new policies pass in Congress, it could take years to start to implement initiatives necessary to achieve these goals.
It will still be difficult to pass his $2 trillion dollar plan. But experts are optimistic that there will be bipartisan support for climate action in the upcoming years as well as major legislation on climate policy.
As one of his first executive orders, President Biden plans to ensure every agency addresses climate change. His team will focus both on domestic approaches to climate as well as international.
He’s selected John Kerry as the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate to help us get back on track and to make us a leader in climate action globally. Kerry will focus on rebuilding credibility and confidence in our ability to reduce emissions as a major player on the world stage.
Read more about Biden’s thorough Climate Plan here.
Biden’s Climate Team
President Biden has selected a fantastic team to hit the ground running. With the most diverse cabinet this nation has seen, Biden said this decision “opens doors and includes the full range of talents that we have in this nation”.
Biden has nominated Deb Haaland as his Secretary of the Interior and she will be the first Native American– a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe– to serve as a cabinet secretary. Her position will include the conservation of our nation’s 500 Million acres of federal lands as well as the regulation of agencies like National Park Services, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Haaland recently tweeted “I’ll be fierce for all of us, our planet, and all of our protected land.”
For Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Biden has tapped Rep. Marcia Fudge. As a long time civil rights activist, she will be a staunch ally in Biden’s plan to focus funding on BIPOC communities that are disproportionately affected by climate issues. Her job will be to oversee policy and programs that address the housing needs of all Americans and how we can move forward with sustainable living environments.
Former Presidential Nominee Pete Buttigieg is his choice for Secretary of Transportation and is also a historic choice as he would be the first openly LGBTQ+ member of the cabinet should his nomination be approved. Biden’s infrastructural plans correlate closely with his environmental efforts, and Buttigieg could play a key role in pushing us towards renewable energy within the transportation sector. With transportation being the largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., this position has a vital role to play in reducing our carbon footprint. Hopefully, we’ll also see an introduction of High Speed Rail, to turn us towards a future where we use less gas and get places more efficiently.
Jennifer Granholm is up for his Secretary of Energy. In this position she would be responsible for policies that could lead us away from our dependence on fossil fuels. She has a long standing history against pipelines and has advocated for a shift from oil and gas to renewable energy.
Michael Regan was nominated as the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. He is currently the head of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality and if confirmed will be the first Black man to hold the position. He will take control of the agency at a pivotal moment, with a lot of work to do as well as a lot to undo from his predecessor. But his history of environmentalism and activism bode well, as he would be in charge of tracking U.S. emissions as well as the regulation of pollutants. He was recently quoted saying under his supervision the EPA “will be driven by our conviction that every person in our great country has the right to clean air, clean water, and a healthier life—no matter how much money they have in their pockets, the color of their skin, or the community they live in.”
Katherine Tai will be the first Asian American U.S. Trade Representative if confirmed. Part of President Biden’s climate plan includes provisions for international trade, including ending fossil fuel subsidies. Tai will be instrumental in shepherding a bold trade agenda that includes climate policy.
Xavier Becerra was nominated as the Secretary of Health and Human Services. He will be the first Latino to lead the department. Climate policy and sustainability is core to the mission of Health and Human services to help protect the health of Americans. Becerra is a known climate policy advocate. In his role as California’s Attorney General, he created a bureau of environmental justice, and has advocated for environmental justice.
Janet Yellen will be the first woman to lead the Treasury Department if she is confirmed. Under Yellen, climate is expected to be a high priority item for the Treasury Department. In her Senate confirmation hearing, Yellen emphasized the risk that climate change could have on the financial system. She plans to appoint a senior official to be in charge of all “climate matters”.
Others key actors in the climate administration include Gina McCarthy as our National Climate Advisor, a former Environmental Protection Agency administrator under the Obama Administration. She will aid President Biden in domestic climate policy. Brenda Mallory will lead the Council on Environmental Quality with an expanded focus on environmental justice. Though this council is more of a behind the scenes player than the EPA or Cabinet of the Interior, it will be critical in enacting federal environmental policy.
What Does The Biden Administration Mean For The Future Of Climate Policy?
Change is coming, and it’s coming with a determined, passionate group of people who are dedicated to stopping climate change in its tracks. President Biden’s legacy very well may be his climate actions, as we are about to see a true tackling like never before. We have a bright, greener course ahead, and a course that will require diligence as well as patience.
“While implementing [Biden’s climate] plan will not happen overnight,” McCarthy said, “the Biden Administration will work tirelessly by marshaling every part of our government, working directly with communities, and harnessing the forces of science—and the values of environmental justice—to build a better future.”