The Biden administration announced yesterday a sweeping set of orders to address climate change, environmental justice, public lands and scientific integrity in the coming years. This bold vision is desperately needed and long overdue.
The orders include, among other things:
- Directives to make climate change a national security priority;
- A call for federal agencies to end fossil fuel subsidies;
- A goal of protecting 30% of the nation’s federal land and coastal waters by 2030;
- The creation of a Civilian Climate Corps that would work to improve recreation on public lands and address the effects of climate change;
- A pause on the federal government’s oil and gas leasing program in order to review the climate and public health risks of the program;
- A call for doubling offshore wind production by 2030;
- Directives for government agencies to focus on the needs of people living in communities burdened by industrial pollution; and
- The creation of a White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council and a White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council.
This push to have a whole-government approach to the climate crisis comes as ice is melting across the globe faster than ever before, sea levels are rising, and extreme weather events such as fires, hurricanes, and flooding are destroying communities at unprecedented rates in the United States. Not only that, but the more subtle effects of climate change are impacting food production, wildlife populations and the stability of fragile ecosystems across the globe and here at home.
The Biden administration’s actions are a call to mobilize the government and the nation towards the collective goal of a more stable, productive, and healthier planet in a historically unprecedented way.
Not everyone applauds the actions. There is already huge backlash from the fossil fuel industry, climate deniers, anti-environmental groups, and those intent on weakening government, not to mention their allies in Congress.
With a slim control of the Senate and House, the administration’s hopes of passing major climate legislation or energy sector regulation rest with elected officials, many of whom have long-standing political and financial ties to oil, gas and coal companies.
These executive orders are not the answer. They’re just the first step in the right direction. They are an organizing call to support a rapid transition away from fossil fuels and increased protections for our communities, public lands and oceans.
The real work now begins, and it’s not going to be easy. The environmental community needs to keep the pressure on to make sure this agenda doesn’t stall.
We at PEER are all in.
We have a lot to contribute. We’ll make sure the Bureau of Land Management has the capacity to address the administration’s new climate and conservation goals. We’ll continue pushing for expanded park wilderness. We’ll keep fighting for endangered species. And we’ll continue to expose industry control and corrupt management practices in federal and state agencies.