By: Ariana Palmieri
Biden has now become the president-elect: So, what does this mean for the environment? In short: Good things. President-elect Joe Biden has campaigned on the most ambitious climate platform of any presidential candidate in history. He’s promising to spend $2 trillion over four years to fight planet warming fossil fuel emissions and convert most of the nation to clean energy. In fact, the first 100 days of the Biden administration is where we’re likely to see a slew of executive actions on climate change. Here’s what you need to know.
Biden’s plan for climate change
1. Rejoin the Paris Agreement
On the day he takes office, Biden will recommit the United States to the global agreement on climate change. This would require a letter to the United Nations and would take effect 30 days later. The core of the agreement is to keep the global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to limit the temperature even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. America abdicated its own commitment to this agreement when President Trump came into office. Biden will re-enter the agreement on day one of the Biden Administration.
2. Convene a climate world summit
Biden believes rejoining the Paris Agreement is the minimum we should do. That’s why he will hold a climate world summit with other world leaders of the major carbon-emitting nations. His goal will be to persuade them to join the United States in making more ambitious national pledges, above and beyond the commitments they’ve already made. The goal will be to press these leaders to cut greenhouse gases more aggressively.
3. Achieve net-zero by 2050
Biden has a goal of achieving a 100 percent clean energy economy and net-zero emissions by the year 2050. In order to avoid the worst-case scenario, recent research shows that carbon emissions must drop 50 percent by 2030 and then reach net-zero by mid-century. Net-zero is the process which any emissions are balanced by absorbing an equivalent amount from the atmosphere, through processes like planting new forests. To achieve this, Biden will sign a series of new executive orders and demand Congress enact legislation in the first year of his presidency that helps him hit milestone targets and make investments in clean energy and climate research.
4. Build a greener infrastructure
On day one, Biden wants to make smarter infrastructure investments to rebuild the nation and ensure our buildings, water, transportation, and energy infrastructure can withstand the impacts of climate change. These rebuilds will be used to prevent, reduce and withstand a changing climate. He will also improve the energy efficiency of our buildings, accelerate the deployment of electronic vehicles, set new higher standards for household appliances and equipment, and build cleaner transportation systems that are safer and accessible.
5. Reverse energy rollbacks
Biden seeks to immediately rescind many of President Trump’s executive orders on energy – which the Trump administration rolled back in favor of fossil fuel companies. One particular energy order Biden seeks to reverse is a March 2017 order calling on every federal agency to dismantle their climate policies. He’s likely to replace it with one declaring his administration’s intention to cut greenhouse gases and instructing government agencies to do the same. Biden will also reinstate federal protections, rolled back by the Trump Administration, that were designed to protect communities.
6. Sign executive orders to cut emissions and protect wildlife
Biden will likely encounter a few setbacks if the conservative majority of the Supreme Court shuts down his new regulations. But Biden has indicated early in his administration he will sign executive orders that will instruct agencies to require aggressive methane pollution limits for new and existing oil and gas operations, protect biodiversity and slow extinction rates, protect America’s national treasures by permanently protecting the Artic National Wildlife Refuge and other areas impacted by President Trump’s attack on federal lands and waters, and so much more.
7. Require companies to disclose climate risks
Biden also said he will, on his first day, sign an executive order that requires companies to disclose climate risks and the greenhouse gas emissions in their operations and supply chains. This is huge because transparency matters and most pollution come from big companies and corporations. By them displaying their climate risks openly, they’ll be put on the spot to become more innovative and climate-friendly.
8. Fight for environmental justice
The president-elect fully acknowledges environmental racism and seeks to stand up to the abuse of power by polluters who disproportionately harm communities of color and low-income communities. These are the communities hurt the most by climate change and need the most direct help. The Biden Administration will act against fossil fuel companies and other polluters who put profit over people. The Biden plan will ensure communities across the country (from Flint, Michigan to Harlan, Kentucky) have access to safe, clean drinking water. He’ll also ensure the development of solutions is an inclusive, community driven process.
9. Create more green jobs
Biden will create a new class of well-paying jobs and job training around climate resilient industries. There’s plenty of green jobs, be it coastal restoration, solar and wind energy, resilient infrastructure design, construction and evaluation (building bridges and roads that can withstand high wings and don’t wash out), natural solutions (tree plantings on a large scale), and technological solutions. There are several opportunities for job growth.
10. Advocate for better agriculture practices
The Biden Administration will partner with farmers and ranchers so they can create climate-friendly farming practices that benefit everyone, such as reinforcing the use of cover crops, preventing run-off, and deploying the latest tech to maximize productivity. Biden wants there to be nutritious fresh food for all communities, also while helping ensure the welfare of the farmers. Biden will also support deployment of methane digesters which capture potent climate emissions and generate electricity.
President-elect Biden has more information on his progressive climate change plan on his website.
To summarize, there are five main points to Biden's climate plan:
- Achieve a 100% clean energy economy and net-zero emissions no later than 2050
- Build a stronger, more resilient nation
- Rally the rest of the world to meet the climate change threat
- Stand up to the abuse of power by polluters that disproportionally harm communities of color and low-income communities
- Fulfill our obligation to workers and communities who powered our industrial revolution
Are you excited for a Biden presidency? What are your thoughts regarding his climate change plans?