White House Gone Green
President Joe Biden has wasted no time turning the White House 180 degrees from the direction Trump was leading it — particularly when it comes to climate change and the environment. Early in Biden’s term, the new administration has made a point to start overturning Trump-era environmental policies, realigning the federal government with science-based decision-making, and taking actionable steps on climate.
On day one, Biden signed more than a dozen executive orders — many of them in direct response to Trump’s denialism when it came to the climate crisis (as well as the Covid-19 pandemic and systemic racism). The first of those orders reentered the US in the Paris Agreement, putting the country back in the international pact to stem global warming. Trump had pulled the US out of the agreement in 2017, claiming the pact would impair the US economy. But experts have long warned of the cost of doing nothing about the climate crisis. In 2020 alone, climate events caused $60 billion in damages in the US, more than any other nation.
“The United States continues to be one of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said hours into Biden’s term. “We need to put in place policies and take steps to address that.”
Biden’s climate agenda also leans heavily on social and environmental justice. His day-one orders included pausing oil and gas leasing in the Arctic and halting construction on Trump’s border wall — both projects that threatened culturally important and ecologically fragile lands. He also revoked the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, a proposed 1,200-mile system designed to carry crude oil across the US-Canada border through Indigenous lands.
A week into his administration, Biden announced another order that put a hold on oil and gas leasing on public lands and offshore waters as part of his commitment to conserve 30 percent of US lands and oceans by 2030. Part of this order also emphasizes the Biden administration’s investment in clean energy, particularly in places like Louisiana’s “cancer alley” where the oil industry has disproportionately polluted Black communities.
“He’s rebuilding trust with vulnerable communities, frontline communities, and with the federal family,” National Wildlife Federation’s Mustafa Ali, who served in the EPA’s environmental justice office under Obama, told Inside Climate News. “These orders serve as a north star for the direction the federal government will be moving in.”
Also on Biden’s to-do list: reviewing Trump’s hundreds of environmental rollbacks, including changes to the National Environmental Policy Act and rules on emissions standards. Fun fact: Columbia University’s “Climate Deregulation Tracker” has been rebranded as the “Reregulation Tracker” to document the current administration’s damage control.