On January 27, President Joe Biden signed an Executive Order (EO) on climate change, and elevated climate change to a climate crisis that he has designated a national security and foreign policy priority. In remarks before signing the EO, Biden said his administration’s response to the climate crisis will be a “whole of government” approach.
The EO states that the “United States will work with other countries and partners, both bilaterally and multilaterally, to put the world on a sustainable climate pathway.”
Biden said the U.S. is rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, and on April 22 he will host a Leaders’ Climate Summit to raise climate priorities and make “a positive contribution to the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties.”
The EO contains the expected pause of new oil and natural gas leasing on public lands or in offshore waters pending completion of a comprehensive review and reconsideration of federal oil and gas permitting and leasing practices by the Secretary of the Interior.
The Secretary was also directed to consider whether to adjust royalties associated with coal, oil, and gas resources extracted from public lands and offshore waters or take other appropriate action that would account for corresponding climate costs.
On the issue of fossil fuel subsidies, the EO directs the heads of agencies to identify any fossil fuel subsidies provided by their respective agencies, and then take steps to ensure that federal funding is not directly subsidizing fossil fuels.
The goal in identifying the subsidies is to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies from the budget request for fiscal year 2022 and thereafter.
The American Petroleum Institute (API) responded to Biden’s plan by saying that “limiting domestic energy produced on federal lands and waters would undermine environmental progress, cost American jobs, jeopardize education and conservation funding and shift the U.S. to greater reliance on foreign energy.”
API claims the EO is the “first step toward a policy of banning natural gas and oil development on federal lands and waters.”
The EO notes that the new clean energy economy envisioned by Biden will need new infrastructure, which will mean millions of construction, manufacturing, engineering, and skilled-trades jobs. Biden wants to speed things along by directing agency heads to conduct infrastructure reviews and consult from an early stage with state, local, and Tribal officials involved in permitting or authorizing proposed infrastructure projects to develop efficient timelines for decision-making.
The EO also authorizes a Civilian Climate Corps and directs the Secretary of the Interior, in collaboration with the Secretary of Agriculture and the heads of other relevant agencies, to submit a strategy to the National Climate Task Force within 90 days of the date of the EO for creating a Civilian Climate Corps Initiative.
The purpose of the initiative is to maximize the creation of accessible training opportunities and good jobs, and to conserve and restore public lands and waters, increase reforestation, increase carbon sequestration in the agricultural sector, protect biodiversity, and address the changing climate.
The EO includes an effort to create well-paying union jobs in hard-hit communities, including rural communities, while reducing methane emissions, oil leaks, and other environmental harms from thousands of former mining and well sites. This would be accomplished by creating jobs to plug leaks in oil and gas wells, and reclaiming abandoned mine land, and the work should include efforts to turn properties such as brownfields, into new hubs for economic growth.
The EO directs federal agencies to coordinate investments and other efforts to assist coal, oil and gas, and power plant communities, and achieve substantial reductions of methane emissions from the oil and gas sector as quickly as possible.
The EO notes the objectives are to support the “clean energy transition, sectoral decarbonization, and alignment of financial flows with the objectives of the Paris Agreement, including with respect to coal financing, nature-based solutions, and solutions to other climate-related challenges.”
The EO creates a new Presidentially appointed position, the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, with John Kerry named to serve in that role.
To address the concerns of the energy industry that a move away from fossil fuels will result in job losses, the EO provides there will be support for private sector investment that accelerates the advancement of the U.S.’s industrial capacity to supply domestic clean energy, buildings, vehicles, and other necessary products and materials.
The Federal Clean Electricity and Vehicle Procurement Strategy aims to facilitate a carbon pollution-free electricity sector no later than 2035, and clean and zero-emission vehicles for federal, state, local, and Tribal government fleets, including vehicles of the U.S. Postal Service.
By Denise Ryan firstname.lastname@example.org