One week following his inauguration as President, Joe Biden announced a series of new climate-focused executive actions, including pausing new oil and gas leases on public lands or offshore, and to increase renewable energy production.
Biden established climate change as a key priority for his administration, promising immediately after the November election to return the U.S. to the Paris Agreement, and fulfilling that promise on his first day in office. Today’s executive order set out several of the broad steps the new administration will take in its approach to fighting climate change.
Significantly, the order establishes climate considerations as an essential element of foreign policy and national security considerations. This will include setting a U.S. priority to press for enhanced climate ambition and integration of climate considerations across a wide range of international fora, preparing a National Intelligence Estimate on the security implications of climate change, and ordering all agencies to develop strategies for integrating climate considerations into their international work.
In addition, the order sets in motion the process of setting emissions reduction targets under a nationally determined contribution (NDC), as well as a climate finance plan.
On the energy front, while the order calls for a pause on new land leases for oil and gas and a review of existing leasing and permitting practices related to fossil fuel development on public lands and waters, Biden stopped short of calling for a ban on fracking. In a speech introducing the executive orders, Biden said:
“Let me be clear, and I know this always comes up: We’re not going to ban fracking. We’ll protect jobs and grow jobs, including through stronger standards, like controls from methane leaks and union workers in — willing to install the changes.”
The President also called for significant growth in renewable energy sources, with the order aiming to double offshore wind by 2030, and signalling future investments in other clean energy technologies. Biden said:
“We’re going to take money and invest it in clean energy jobs in America — millions of jobs in wind, solar, and carbon capture. In fact, today’s actions are going to help us increase renewable energy production from offshore wind and meet our obligation to be good stewards of our public lands.”
Biden framed the plan as a way to not only fight climate change, but to ‘build back better’ by creating jobs to support the environmental initiatives. He also placed environmental justice as a key plank of the new policies, directing 40% of the overall benefits of relevant federal investments in clean energy, water and wastewater infrastructure to disadvantaged communities.
“When we think of climate change, we think of it — this is a case where conscious and convenience cross paths, where dealing with this existential threat to the planet and increasing our economic growth and prosperity are one in the same. When I think of climate change, I think of — and the answers to it — I think of jobs.
“A key plank of our Build Back Better Recovery Plan is building a modern, resilient climate infrastructure and clean energy future that will create millions of good-paying union jobs — not 7, 8, 10, 12 dollars an hour, but prevailing wage and benefits.
“You know, we can put millions of Americans to work modernizing our water systems, transportation, our energy infrastructure to withstand the impacts of extreme climate.”