By: Hazal Kara — intersectional climate activist at FFF Digital
Without a doubt, President Biden’s climate change agenda is in stark contrast to the previous Trump administration, who never had a proper agenda in the first place. So far, Biden has rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement — which is an agreement promising to try to minimize global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, planned to host a Leaders’ Climate Summit on Earth Day, established a National Climate Taskforce and the White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy, committed to the goal of conserving at least 30 percent of lands and oceans by 2030, and created an American Jobs Plan. More information from Biden’s executive actions can be found here. This article will focus on the US rejoining the Paris Agreement, the National Climate Taskforce, and the American Jobs Plan.
In recent news, on April 9th 2021, Biden proposed to allocate 14 billion USD from the 2022 budget on initiatives aiming to combat climate change, comprising climate science research and environmental regulations. Of this 14 billion, 11.1 billion would go to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and 500 million would go to climate and clean energy research under the National Science Foundation. According to Reuters, these allocations are a 21.3% and 20% increase from the 2021 level, respectively.
One of the first actions of President Biden was to bring the US back into the Paris Agreement. This is significant in terms of international relations, particularly considering the US is the largest historical — CO2 emitter and has a great amount of influence on other nations across the globe.
Biden has pledged that the US will reach net-zero emissions by 2050, along with the EU and many other countries who signed the Paris Agreement. Yet these promises and ‘commitments’ are not enough to keep global warming below 1.5 by the end of the century. Only 127 countries, collectively responsible for 63% of emissions have adopted net zero targets. According to the Climate Action Tracker, if these targets (as of November 2020) are met, we are most likely on track to an estimated 2.6 degrees of warming. Every tenth of a degree counts, of course, but this number is quite similar to the estimated warming after the creation of the Paris Agreement: 2.7 degrees. Five years and not enough progress has been made.
The Biden administration will need to work hard in order to restore the US’ credibility in the collaboration to tackle climate change. Rejoining the Paris Agreement and having more ambitious targets and actions to reach net zero emissions in contrast to the Obama Administration are definitely the right steps to take , but in order to prevent further catastrophe, more ambitious goals may be necessary.
National Climate Taskforce
The First Task Force Meeting was held on the 11th of February 2021, with a number of attendees including different secretaries, assistants to the President, and National Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy who chaired the meeting.
Discussion points included ‘achieving environmental justice’ and ‘creating good-paying, union jobs’, emphasizing the necessity of a green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Attendees also talked about how collaboration would work between agencies.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) joined in on the Second Task Force Meeting, which met on the 18th of March. The general theme of discussion points were similar to that of the first meeting. After the meeting, “…the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service announced it will invest more than $218 million to leverage the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to fund projects that will help drive rural economic recovery and job creation, support the voluntary stewardship efforts of private landowners, and better conserve America’s public lands.”
Another action that came out of the meeting includes the Environmental Protection Agency relaunching their website on climate change, with both an English and Spanish version. The website can be found here, featuring basic information about climate science and policy.
American Jobs Plan
President Biden claims infrastructure is inextricably linked to climate change and its effects. The new infrastructure plan totals to 2 trillion USD, which provokes opposition from Republicans in Congress as well as more moderate Democrats. According to political science professor at the University of California — Santa Barbara, Leah Stokes, the plan tackles 70–80% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
So what does it involve? There are many different proposal, which include: modernizing 20,000 miles of highways; fixing the ten most economically significant bridges in the country; eliminating all lead pipes and service lines in drinking water systems; employing hundreds of thousands of people to work on laying down transmission lines and controlling oil and gas wells and abandoned mines; bringing affordable, reliable, and high-speed broadband to every American; upgrading two million homes and commercial buildings, including schools and child care facilities; creating jobs and raising wages for home care workers; increasing the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%. According to the Biden Administration, this plan would be fully paid for in 15 years.
The last point, in particular, is likely to cause outrage among more conservative political figures, including Democrat Joe Manchin. With the Democrat Party taking control of the Senate by a narrow margin, it is vital that all Democrats vote in favor of this plan for it to pass. Though Joe Manchin is against raising corporate taxes, he has stated he would support a middle-ground, that is, an increase to 25%.
The main part of the plan connected to tackling the climate crisis relates to the US’ electrical system. The ultimate goal is to secure 100% carbon-free electricity by 2035. Thus, Biden is calling upon Congress to invest 100 billion USD for building more resilient power lines, tax credits for clean energy generation and storage, ‘plugging’ oil and gas wells while ‘restoring and reclaiming’ mines, which will prevent methane leaks, ensuring communities are protected from increasing pollution, and investing in a new generation of US citizens that will work in the conservation sector.
Moreover, Biden wants to invest 35 billion USD on climate science oriented research to find technological advancements that will help address the climate crisis. According to the administration’s fact sheet, these include, “utility-scale energy storage, carbon capture and storage, hydrogen, advanced nuclear, rare earth element separations, floating offshore wind, biofuel/bioproducts, quantum computing, and electric vehicles.”
- Barrett, Ted, and Nicky Robertson. “Manchin Warns Biden’s Infrastructure Bill Is in Trouble over Corporate Tax Hikes.” CNN, Cable News Network, 6 Apr. 2021, edition.cnn.com/2021/04/05/politics/manchin-infrastructure-bill-tax-hikes/index.html.
- Cho, Renee. “The U.S. Is Back in the Paris Agreement. Now What?” State of the Planet, 12 Feb. 2021, blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2021/02/04/u-s-rejoins-paris-agreement/.
- “Global Update: Paris Agreement Turning Point.” Global Update: Paris Agreement Turning Point | Climate Action Tracker, climateactiontracker.org/publications/global-update-paris-agreement-turning-point/.
- “Readout of the First National Climate Task Force Meeting.” The White House, The United States Government, 11 Feb. 2021, www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/02/11/readout-of-the-first-national-climate-task-force-meeting/.
- “Readout of the Second National Climate Task Force Meeting.” The White House, The United States Government, 18 Mar. 2021, www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/03/18/readout-of-the-second-national-climate-task-force-meeting/.
- Volcovici, Valerie, and Timothy Gardner. “Biden Budget’s $14 Billion Hike for Climate Includes Big Boosts for EPA, Science.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 9 Apr. 2021, www.reuters.com/article/idUSKBN2BW22C.
- “Within Biden’s Infrastructure Plan Lies An Agenda To Address Climate Change.” NPR, NPR, 8 Apr. 2021, www.npr.org/2021/04/05/984387402/within-bidens-infrastructure-plan-lies-an-agenda-to-address-climate-change.