9 Things the Biden Administration Could Do Quickly on the Environment
WASHINGTON — President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. campaigned on the most ambitious climate platform of any presidential candidate in history, promising to spend $2 trillion over four years to draw down planet-warming fossil fuel emissions and convert much of the nation to clean energy.
The possibility that the Senate could remain under the control of Republicans, who have generally opposed climate legislation, puts a damper on some of his biggest-ticket plans. But with or without Democratic control of the Senate, the first 100 days of the Biden administration are likely to see a flurry of executive actions addressing climate change, as well as a major push to insert clean energy provisions into legislation that could pass with a bipartisan coalition.
Here are nine things a Mr. Biden may do early on to put the United States back on a path to addressing climate change.
1. Rejoin the Paris Agreement
Mr. Biden has pledged throughout the campaign, and again this week, that on the day he takes office he will recommit the United States to the global agreement on climate change. That would only require a letter to the United Nations and would take effect 30 days later.
2. Convene global leaders
Mr. Biden has said he intends to assemble a “climate world summit” to press leaders of the big industrial nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions more aggressively.
3. Reverse energy rollbacks
Expect the Biden administration to immediately rescind a large number of President Trump’s executive orders on energy, particularly a March 2017 order calling on every federal agency to dismantle their climate policies. Several experts said he is likely to replace it with one declaring his administration’s intention to cut greenhouse gases and instructing all government agencies to look for ways to do so.
4. Make climate part of coronavirus relief
The Biden administration will very likely push to include clean energy provisions in any new economic stimulus measures Congress considers. That could include things like research and development funding for clean energy, money for states to continue their renewable energy expansion, and an extension of tax credits for renewable energy industries.
5. Sign executive orders to cut emissions
Developing and finalizing new regulations will take time, and, if challenged, they may ultimately be struck down by the conservative majority on the Supreme Court. But Mr. Biden has indicated that, early in his administration, he will sign executive orders instructing agencies to develop new methane limits for oil and gas wells, to reinstate and strengthen fuel economy standards, and to tighten efficiency standards for appliances and buildings.
6. Create new financial regulations
Mr. Biden has also said he will, on the first day of his administration, sign an executive order requiring public companies to disclose climate change-related financial risks and greenhouse gas emissions in their operations.
7. Revise rules on fossil fuel production
Mr. Biden is expected to cancel a 2017 executive order to lift restrictions on offshore energy exploration and production. He also could stop the Trump administration’s expedited reviews of pipelines and other fossil fuel projects.
8. Prioritize environmental justice
Mr. Biden has made addressing the effects of pollution and global warming in low-income communities a central element of his climate plan. In the near term, a Biden administration could create an environmental justice advisory board to coordinate policies across agencies and take concrete steps like increasing pollution monitoring in vulnerable communities and creating mapping tools to better understand disparities.
9. Restore wildlife areas
Mr. Biden has pledged to take “immediate steps to reverse the Trump assault on America’s national treasures” including major cuts in 2017 to Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, as well as opening parts of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration. He has said on the first day of his administration he will sign an executive order to conserve 30 percent of United States land and waters by 2030.
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