Climate Actions of the Biden Administration

By Michael Northrop, Rockefeller Brothers Fund

It took five years for President Obama to become a climate activist. It’s taken Joe Biden less than ten days. The array of executive actions, statements and staffing decisions he and his colleagues have announced is startling.  Among them are his commitment to net zero U.S. emissions by 2050; 100% zero carbon electricity in the U.S. by 2030; a pause on new oil and natural gas leases on public lands and offshore waters; direction to the Office of Management and Budget to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies from the fiscal year 2022 budget and thereafter; an end to U.S. public financing for international fossil fuel projects; and a commitment that the U.S. will work with international financial institutions, including the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund, to promote financing programs, economic stimulus packages, and debt relief initiatives that are aligned with and support the goals of the Paris Agreement.

In the Biden Administration’s January 27th Fact Sheet on President Bidens Executive Actions are a sprawling list of additional commitments including: establishing climate considerations as an essential element of U.S. foreign policy and national security; affirming the United States will exercise its leadership to promote a significant increase in global ambition; hosting a Leaders’ Climate Summit on Earth Day, April 22, 2021; reconvening the Major Economies Forum; installing former Secretary of State, John Kerry, as the new Special Presidential Envoy for Climate to press for enhanced climate ambition and integration of climate considerations across a wide range of international fora; initiating development of a revised United States’ nationally determined contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement; ordering the Director of National Intelligence to prepare a National Intelligence Estimate on the security implications of climate change; directing the State Department to prepare a transmittal package to the Senate for the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol; and mandating that all federal agencies develop strategies for integrating climate considerations into their international work.

In parallel, on the domestic front, President Biden has ordered creation of the White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy to be led by former Environmental Protection Agency Chair Gina McCarthy to coordinate and implement the President’s domestic climate agenda. That same order establishes a new National Climate Task Force that will convene leaders from across 21 federal agencies and departments to enable an integrated all-of-government approach to combatting the climate crisis.

Especially notable among his domestic commitments are President Biden’s orders directing federal agencies to develop programs, policies, and activities to address the disproportionate health, environmental, economic, and climate impacts on environmental justice communities; exploring opportunities for farmers to benefit from land-based strategies for carbon sequestration; and making scientific evidence central to all future decision-making on climate change.

There’s a lot to work with here. There’s no doubt the Biden Administration is signaling strongly that it will take a leadership position internationally in encouraging national level and multilateral action.  Reading its executive orders and public statements, several important conclusions emerge. The U.S. government sees COP26 in Glasgow as a critical moment to take the next giant step on climate; that it very much wants a robust relationship with China on climate and is prepared to work constructively with China on climate change; that it wants to use the G7/G20 and other multilateral fora to drive ambitious decision-making; that it sees public and also private finance (more announcements coming) as critical levers to drive capital toward clean energy and away from fossil fuels, and that it is willing to work on reducing subsidies for dirty energy.  Given all this, it’s a good time to be thinking about what the most ambitious approaches are we can be supporting.  The outer limit of what is possible has expanded dramatically in the past two weeks.



Arian Okhovat, Communications F20 |

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