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  • Writer's pictureCorinne E. Atton

Biden-Harris Administration Charts New Course on Climate Change

President Biden has hit the ground running, signing an Executive Order on his first day in office pledging that “the Federal Government must be guided by the best science,” and making it clear that the policy of his Administration is “to listen to the science,” “protect our environment, “to ensure access to clean air and water,” “to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” and “to bolster resilience to the impacts of climate change.”

The Executive Order directs all executive departments and agencies to immediately review and to take action to address Federal actions taken during the Trump Administration “that conflict with these important national objections, and to immediately commence work to confront the climate crisis.”

Specific steps ordered, and policies stated include:

· Consideration of whether additional agency actions are needed to fully enforce these national objectives.

· Proposal of new regulations, including emission guidelines for methane and volatile organic compound emissions from existing operations in the oil and gas sector.

· Account for the benefits of reducing climate pollution, including capture the full costs of greenhouse gas emissions and take global damages into account.

· Establishment of an Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases—this “Social Cost” including the social costs of carbon, nitrous oxide and methane; and consideration of changes in net agricultural productivity, human health, property damage from increased flood risk, and the value of ecosystem services.

This Working Group is further instructed to “consider the recommendations of the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine … and other pertinent scientific literature”; to “solicit public comment; engage with the public and stakeholders; seek the advice of ethics experts”; and to ensure that the analyzed Social Cost reflects “the interests of future generations in avoiding threats posed by climate change.”

· Revocation of the March 2019 Permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline—stressing that “the United States must prioritize the development of a clean energy economy.”

· Support the international leadership of the U.S. on climate issues, including its role to urge “other countries to take ambitious climate action,” with the goal “to achieve a significant increase in global climate action and put the world on a sustainable climate pathway.”

The Order further acknowledges that:

· “Extreme weather events and other climate-related effects have harmed the health, safety, and security of the American people and have increased the urgency for combatting climate change and accelerating the transition toward a clean energy economy”; and

· The climate “crisis must be met with action on a scale and at a speed commensurate with the need to avoid setting the world on a dangerous, potentially catastrophic, climate trajectory.”

This is a clear signal from President Biden that his administration intends to act quickly, and reverse course on some of the actions, and inactions, taken by the Trump Administration. The comprehensive review, now underway, will also provide stakeholders with the opportunity to participate, and for their voices to be heard.

(Image acknowledgement: The White House)



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