"Today is climate day at the White House," President Biden declared Wednesday as he signed executive orders to "confront the existential threat of climate change." "We've already waited too long to deal with this climate crisis. We can't wait any longer," Biden said, per the New York Times. The executive actions include a pause on new oil and gas leasing on federal land and an order for the Department of the Interior to conserve 30% of America's lands and water by 2030. Federal agencies have been asked to "eliminate fossil fuel subsidies as consistent with applicable law." More:
- Focus on jobs. Biden tried to get ahead of criticism that the measures will eliminate jobs at a time of mass unemployment, the BBC reports. " When I think of climate change and the answers to it, I think of jobs,'' Biden said. "We’re going to put people to work. We’re not going to lose jobs. These aren’t pie-in-the-sky dreams. These are concrete actionable solutions." He said millions of people will be able to get jobs "modernizing our water systems, transportation, our energy infrastructure."
- Ambitious goals. Biden aims to make the electricity sector emissions-free by 2035, followed by the rest of the economy by 2050, the AP reports. The orders will "supercharge our administration's ambitious plan to confront the existential threat of climate change," he said Wednesday.
- A big tent. Biden's climate plan is backed by a broad coalition that includes racial justice groups, auto companies, labor unions, and the US Chamber of Commerce, Politico reports. But holding the coalition together long enough to get Congress to approve trillions in funding will be a challenge.
- A "whole-government" approach. Biden's orders established a National Climate Task Force with leaders of 21 government agencies, the Guardian reports. He also established an environmental justice council to address the disproportionate impact of climate change on low-income and minority communities.
- An "essential element" of foreign policy. The executive orders state that climate action will be an "essential element" of foreign policy and national security decisions. John Kerry, Biden's international climate change envoy, denied Wednesday that the administration would make concessions to China on issue like human rights or the South China Sea in return for progress on emissions, Vox reports. "Those issues will never be traded for anything that has to do with climate," he said. "That’s not going to happen."
- Opposition from oil companies. Oil companies have slammed the halt to new leases on federal lands, saying the move will cost jobs and make the US more dependent on foreign energy. But environmental advocates note that energy companies can still extract oil and gas from the existing leases they stockpiled during the Trump administration, the Los Angeles Times reports. "If what this pause does is say to the oil companies, ‘OK, you have thousands of permits you’re not using, let’s work on those,’ that’s still a lot," said Nada Culver, vice president of public lands for the National Audubon Society.
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