SupplementsSustainability

Biden-Harris Administration Commits on Climate Change, Environmental Justice

President Joe Biden recently took executive action to address a number of climate and energy-related crises both domestically and abroad.

In a series of Executive Orders, President Biden hopes to pave the way to creating good-paying union jobs, equitable clean energy future, building modern and sustainable infrastructures, while restoring scientific integrity and evidence-based policymaking across the federal government, and re-establishing the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

Biden set ambitious goals that will ensure America and the world can meet the urgent demands of the climate crisis, while empowering American workers and businesses to lead a clean energy revolution that achieves a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035 and puts the United States on an irreversible path to a net-zero economy by 2050.

“It’s a future of enormous hope and opportunity. It’s about coming to the moment to deal with this maximum threat that we — that’s now facing us — climate change — with a greater sense of urgency. In my view, we’ve already waited too long to deal with this climate crisis, and we can’t wait any longer,” Biden said before signing the Orders. “We see it with our own eyes, we feel it, we know it in our bones, and it’s time to act.”

The order establishes climate considerations as an essential element of U.S. foreign policy and national security. It also affirms that, in implementing – and building on – the Paris Agreement’s objectives, the United States will exercise its leadership to promote a significant increase in global ambition. It makes clear that both significant short-term global emission reductions and net zero global emissions by mid-century – or before – are required to avoid setting the world on a dangerous, potentially catastrophic, climate trajectory.

“We need to increase tree cover five times faster than we are,” said John Kerry, Biden’s special envoy for climate. “We need to ramp up renewable energy six times faster. And the transition to electric vehicles needs to take place at a rate 22 times faster.”

Of tremendous importance to Black and Latino/a Americans redlined into areas with poor air quality and other environmental toxins, the Biden administration’s order catalyzes the creation of jobs that ensure that every federal infrastructure investment reduces climate pollution and that steps are taken to accelerate clean energy and transmission projects under federal siting and permitting processes in an environmentally sustainable manner.

“Many climate and health calamities are colliding all at once. It’s not just the pandemic that keeps people inside; it’s poor air quality. Multiple studies have shown that air pollution is associated with an increased risk of death from COVID-19,” Biden said. “And just like we need a unified national response to COVID-19, we desperately need a unified national response to the climate crisis because there is a climate crisis… We see American consumers switching to electric vehicles through rebates and incentives, and the residents of our cities and towns breathing cleaner air, and fewer kids living with asthma and dying from it.”

The administration’s efforts would also commit to making environmental justice a part of the mission of every agency by directing federal agencies to develop programs, policies, and activities to address the disproportionate health, environmental, economic, and climate impacts on disadvantaged communities. The order creates a government-wide Justice40 Initiative with the goal of delivering 40 percent of the overall benefits of relevant federal investments to disadvantaged communities and tracks performance toward that goal through the establishment of an Environmental Justice Scorecard.

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