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6 Things Biden Just Did to Confront the Climate Crisis and Advance Environmental Justice

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Biden campaigned on big promises to address climate change and environmental injustice. Today he signed a package of executive orders mobilizing the federal government to tackle these crises and move towards a pollution-free, clean energy future. Here’s what the orders do:

Protect public lands from oil and gas leasing

  • The fossil fuel industry gets a lot of its oil and gas from federal public lands and oceans through a system of leases. Currently, activity on these leases accounts for nearly 25% of climate-heating emissions in the United States. Biden is halting — for now — the offering of any more public land and water for new oil and gas leases.
  • The president aims to protect 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030 — part of a broader effort towards addressing the nature crisis that threatens one million species with extinction in our lifetimes.
  • This 30×30 commitment — 30% of territory by ’30 — recognizes that conservation efforts must involve local communities in order to succeed. It states that the government should follow the lead of tribes and communities that face the worst impacts of environmental destruction and who have long been excluded from land management decisions.

Invest in communities most impacted by pollution

  • These executive orders take critical first steps to address pollution in communities that are suffering from our country’s long legacy of environmental racism and classism.
  • They strengthen enforcement of our environmental laws, especially in the communities most impacted by pollution.
  • 40% of the benefits from federal climate investments will go to these communities. That may include programs to support sustainable energy, housing, infrastructure, and transportation.

Mobilize the entire government to meet our climate and environmental justice goals

  • Biden established a National Climate Task Force to coordinate 21 federal agencies around climate action. Its chair will be Gina McCarthy, who led the Environmental Protection Agency under President Obama.
  • Biden also created a White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council that will push for fair and equitable environmental policy across federal agencies, and an external advisory council that will give frontline communities a voice in decision-making.

Move us towards a pollution-free, clean energy future

  • Biden recommitted to moving to a carbon pollution-free energy system by 2035, and net-zero emissions across the economy by 2050.
  • The federal government will switch its fleet of more than 600,000 vehicles to American-made, zero-emission vehicles.
  • Agencies will also buy clean power and take action to accelerate clean energy development.

Ensure climate solutions are based on science

  • Biden signed a presidential memorandum directing federal agencies to make decisions grounded in evidence and science, ending years of Trump administration attacks on science-based regulation.
  • The president also reestablished a council of science and technology advisors to guide his policymaking.

Restore U.S. climate leadership

  • Biden is calling the climate crisis what it is: a national security threat. He directed his administration to center the climate crisis in foreign policy, and added climate envoy John Kerry to the National Security Council.
  • He recommitted the U.S. to our Paris Agreement goals, and put in place a process to set a national pollution reduction target.
  • The U.S. will host world leaders for a climate summit on Earth Day, April 22.

These actions build on the executive order President Biden signed on Day 1 to rejoin the Paris Agreement, cancel the Keystone XL pipeline, and review destructive environmental policies of the preceding administration.

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers his inaugural address on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2021.
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers his inaugural address on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2021. (Alex Wong / Getty Images)