President Joe Biden on Wednesday is set to issue another raft of executive actions tied to combating climate change, prioritizing science and evidence-based policy across federal agencies and pausing oil drilling on public lands in the latest move to unwind the Trump administration’s environmental policies.
Biden has pledged to be the most aggressive president on climate change, which he has called “an existential threat.” His goal is to decarbonize the U.S. power sector by 2035 on the way to reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
The U.S. emits the second largest amount of carbon dioxide CO2, producing about 5.41 billion metric tons in 2018. China emits nearly twice that amount.
The actions he’ll sign Wednesday afternoon will also elevate climate change as a national security concern, commit to the goal of conserving at least 30% of all federal land and water by 2030, which stands at 12% today, and build on his economic policy agenda to direct federal agencies to “procure carbon pollution-free electricity and clean, zero-emission vehicles to create good-paying, union jobs and stimulate clean energy industries.”
Biden’s “Buy American” initiative aimed at boosting the federal government’s purchases of U.S.-manufactured goods.
The president has faced criticism from Republicans who say his climate policies are cost-prohibitive, will hurt American businesses and eliminate oil and gas jobs.
The move to impose a moratorium on new oil and natural gas leases follows Biden’s decisions last week to suspend for 60 days new drilling permits on federal lands and waters and halt construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Even so, the latest orders won’t stop energy firms from acting on existing oil and gas leases in the western U.S. and the Gulf of Mexico, some of which were issued in the final weeks of the Trump administration and could be active for years to come.
Sen. Dan Sullivan, a Republican from oil-rich Alaska, called Biden’s initial 60-day moratorium to limit oil drilling “an unprecedented assault on resource development and energy jobs.”
“It is an assault on good energy jobs, good resource development jobs that have been the bedrock of millions of middle-class Americans for decades,” he said on the Senate floor Friday.
Biden’s orders also has made clear he wants to restore science-based decision-making that activists say was relegated to the sideline by former energy industry lobbyists who ran key environmental agencies under a president who challenged the basis of climate change.
The action will also create a National Climate Task Force, which will feature leaders from across 21 federal agencies and departments and formally announce a climate summit of world leaders on Earth Day, April 22.
Former Secretary of State John Kerry, the president’s special climate envoy, and Gina McCarthy, national climate adviser, are expected to briefing White House reporters on the administration’s plans ahead of Biden’s remarks.
Biden has already issued an executive order rejoining the Paris Agreement, an international treaty on climate change, and his administration is expected to undo a host of anti-climate rules enacted under Trump covering emissions, such as methane, that contribute to global warming.
The League of Conservation Voters applauded the plan, describing it as a “whole of government approach that puts bold climate action, clean energy, and environmental justice at the heart of their domestic and foreign policy agenda.”
“Congress must complement these executive actions with bold legislation that puts our economy on a path to recovery by making transformative investments in healthy, equitable, safe communities powered by clean energy,” the organization said in a statement.