During the first few weeks of the Biden Administration, multiple executive orders (“EOs”) have been issued to address climate change declaring it a matter of national security and an essential element of US foreign policy. The Administration is taking a “whole-of-government” approach to tackle this issue. This approach will affect a wide variety of industries, including automotive, construction, housing, oil, infrastructure, and insurance industries. This article discusses three EOs issued by President Biden focused on climate change.
Executive Order 13,900 – Improve Public Health and the Environment
“Climate change has had a growing effect on the U.S. economy, with climate-related costs increasing over the last 4 years. 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.” Exec. Order No. 13,990 (Jan. 20, 2021). EO 13,990 states that it is the policy of the Biden administration to improve public health and the environment. The executive order takes multiple steps to achieve this goal. It requires the review of orders issued during the previous administration to aid in adapting policies to address climate change. EO 13,990 establishes the Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Greenhouse gases. An accurate understanding of the social cost of greenhouse gases is essential for agencies to determine the benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The order also revokes the March 2019 Keystone XL Pipeline permit because it does not serve the U.S. national interest in climate change. These actions will all aid fighting climate change in the years to come.
Executive Order 14,008 – National and Foreign Actions
Lead the World by Example
On January 27, 2021, EO 14,008 was issued. This EO focuses on climate change issues both home and aboard. The order reaffirms the administration’s focus on climate change both in national and foreign actions. The Administration is seeking to lead by example in implementing climate policies. It is procuring clean and zero emission vehicles for federal, state, local and tribal government fleets. The Administration also seeks to catalyze private sector investment into clean energy buildings, vehicles, and other necessary products and materials. Leading by example will help accelerate the advancement of America’s industrial capacity to supply domestic clean energy products and materials.
Make US Carbon Neutral by 2050
EO 14,008 includes a goal to become a carbon pollution-free electricity sector by 2035, which aids the administration’s goal of making the U.S. carbon neutral by 2050. This will require very steep emission cuts and the replacement of coal power by renewable sources. EO 14,008’s other goals include increasing renewable energy production on public lands and in offshore waters. The EO calls for federal infrastructure investments ensured to reduce climate pollution. President Biden has prepared a $2 trillion plan for infrastructure investments that focuses heavily on improvements to help combat climate change. The plan will help combat climate change by requiring stricter environmental regulations, higher fuel efficiency standards and the limiting the expansion of fossil fuel productions.
Address Environmental Justice
EO 14,008 focuses on environmental and economic justice. The order directs agencies to incorporate environmental justice by developing programs, policies, and activities to address it. This directive addresses the disproportionate effects high and adverse human health, environmental, climate-related, and other cumulative impacts on disadvantaged communities. The EO asked for recommendation to implement sustainable improvements in disadvantaged communities. The Department of Justice is to create a new office to coordinate environmental justice activities among its components and the U.S. Attorney’s offices nationwide. The Department of Justice and Environmental Protection Agency are directed to develop comprehensive environmental justice enforcement strategies and to strengthen enforcement of environmental violations with a disproportionate impact on underserved communities.
Executive Order 14,013 – Impacts of Migration
EO 14,013 was issued on February 4, 2021. It focuses on migration, but it incorporates climate change into its objectives. The order requires the preparation of a report on climate change and its impact on migration, including forced migration, internal displacement, and planned relocation. Climate change has been linked to extreme weather, which has led to displacement in many areas. EO 14,013’s focus on the interplay of climate change and migration will help create additional protective measures and resettlement options for those who are forced to migrate due to climate change.
As the Biden Administration seeks address climate change, it will need the cooperation of Congress to increase investment in climate change policies. The Administration will also need the cooperation of other nations to achieve these goals. President Biden has already commenced discussions with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau related to efforts to tackle climate change by both nations. The focus on climate change will continue to expand in the upcoming months, which may lead to various statutory and regulatory changes.
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Exec. Order No. 13,990 (Jan. 20, 2021).
Exec. Order No. 14,008 (Jan. 27, 2021).
Exec. Order No. 14,013 (Feb. 4, 2021).
A. Alton, Biden Pushes U.S. – and the World – to Help Climate Migrants (Feb. 8, 2021), https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/biden-pushes-u-s-and-the-world-to-help-climate-migrants/.
D. Boyer, Biden’s $2 trillion plan for infrastructure focuses on fighting climate change (Fed. 21, 2021) https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2021/feb/21/bidens-2-trillion-plan-for-infrastructure-focuses-/.
G. Lubold et al., Biden Meets Virtually With Canada’s Trudeau on Climate Change, Covid-19, Economic Recovery (Feb. 23, 2019), https://www.wsj.com/articles/biden-meets-virtually-with-canadas-trudeau-on-climate-change-covid-19-economic-recovery-11614123978.
L. Sommer, How Fast Will Biden Need to Move on Climate? Really, Really Fast (Feb. 2, 2021), https://www.npr.org/2021/02/02/963014373/how-fast-will-biden-need-to-move-on-climate-really-really-fast.