Biden's Being Bold on Climate

The rapid pace of Biden's climate action sounds death knell for era of denialism.

For a landmark moment in the global effort to stave off catastrophic climate change, Joe Biden’s “climate day” at the White House was rather low-key. He gave a short speech before perfunctorily signing a small stack of executive orders, donning his mask and striding out without taking any questions.


The vision laid out in the actions he signed last Wednesday, however, was transformative. A pathway for oil and gas drilling to be banned from public lands. A third of America’s land and ocean protected. The government ditching the combustion engine from its entire vehicle fleet, and offering up a future where battery-powered trucks deliver America’s mail.


Biden may eschew the politically contentious framing of the Green New Deal but there was even an echo of the original New Deal with his plan for a civilian climate corps to restore public lands and waterways.

Biden’s administration will spur new climate-friendly policies for farmers while also devoting resources to the urban communities, typically low-income people of colour, disproportionally blighted by pollution from nearby highways and power plants. In all, 21 federal agencies will be part of a new, overarching climate body. “This isn’t time for small measures,” Biden said. “We need to be bold.”


The first 10 days of Biden’s presidency have represented a startling handbrake turn from Donald Trump’s term, where climate science was routinely disparaged or sidelined and policies to cut planet-heating emissions were jettisoned. A complete rewiring of the economy is now needed to avert what the president calls an “existential threat” to civilization. US emissions dropped by about 10 percent last year but only because of pandemic shutdowns, and similar cuts will be required each year. “We can’t wait any longer - we see it with our own eyes, we feel it in our bones,” Biden implored.


“It truly is a new day for climate action,” said Carol Browner, former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Bill Clinton. “President Joe Biden is taking unprecedented actions and sending an unmistakable message to the world that the United States is back and serious about tackling the climate crisis.”

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