Biden signs climate change orders amid concerns over jobs: 'It is time to act'

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President Biden on Wednesday signed executive orders on climate change as he vowed to put the issue “at the center” of U.S. national security and domestic and foreign policy.

At a White House ceremony, Biden said the orders would “supercharge” his administration’s plan for dealing with climate change.

“Today is climate day at the White House, which means today is jobs day at the White House,” Biden said, adding that the focus of the administration is “American products,” the “health of our families, cleaner water and cleaner air.”

“In my view, we’ve already waited too long to deal with this climate crisis and we can’t wait any longer. It is time to act,” Biden said, as he outlined his executive actions. “Just like we need a unified national response to COVID-19, we desperately need a unified national response to the climate crisis, because there is a climate crisis.”

Biden added: “When I think of climate, I think of jobs.”

Biden said that climate change is a case “where conscience and convenience cross paths, saying “dealing with the existential threats to the plant and economic growth are one in the same.”

The president said the U.S. “can put millions of Americans to work modernizing our eater systems, transportations, and energy infrastructure.”

But Republicans have strongly pushed back at Biden’s policies, including his order to ban new oil and gas leasing on federal lands, claiming they are job killers.

“America has become the world leader in energy production and a major exporter of oil and natural gas, strengthening our national security and boosting our economy for hard-working families,” House Republican Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., and 30 GOP members of the House Energy Action Team said in a statement Wednesday. “In less than a week, the Biden Administration has placed these jobs and accomplishments at risk by waging an assault on American energy, as well as the good jobs and low energy costs that go with it.”

Biden’s order on Wednesday is set to “empower” American workers and businesses to “lead a clean energy revolution” that aims to achieve a carbon pollution-free sector by 2035, while putting the U.S. on an “irreversible path to a net-zero economy by 2050.”

The order will expand on his move last week to rejoin the Paris climate agreement. His review of “harmful rollbacks of standards” that protect air, water and communities is set to direct federal agencies to “eliminate fossil fuel subsidies as consistent with applicable law and identify new opportunities to spur innovation, commercialization, and deployment of clean energy technologies and infrastructure.”

As for jobs, the order, according to the White House, is “consistent with the goals of the President’s Build Back Better jobs and economic recovery plan,” saying that clean energy jobs is a “central pillar.” The orders 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.”

The order also “requires those purchases to be Made in America,” while “strictly” enforcing wage and benefits guidelines.

“These actions reaffirm that agencies should work to ensure that any jobs created with funds to address the climate crisis are good jobs with a choice to join a union,” the White House said.

BIDEN TO BAN NEW PERMITS FOR DRILLING ON FEDERAL LANDS, WATERS FOR ONE YEAR

The order also “catalyzes” the creation of jobs in construction, manufacturing, engineering and the skilled-trades by directing steps to ensure that every federal infrastructure investment reduces climate pollution and that steps are taken to accelerate clean energy and transmission projects under federal siting and permitting processes in an environmentally sustainable manner.

Biden, from the White House on Wednesday, also maintained that “we are not going to ban fracking.”

Fracking is a process, which involves injecting water into shale rock at high pressure to extract natural gas, and has revolutionized the oil and gas industry by allowing producers to reach large quantities within shale rock that were previously unattainable and cost-prohibitive to drill.

As a result, oil and gas production in the U.S. has nearly tripled over the past decade. More than 95% of new wells use hydraulic fracking, accounting for about two-thirds of natural gas production and half of oil output in 2018, according to the American Petroleum Institute.

The order, according to the White House, establishes climate considerations as an “essential element” of U.S. foreign policy and national security.

“This is a whole of government approach to put climate change at center of domestic policy, national security and foreign policy,” Biden said.

The order affirms that the U.S. “will exercise its leadership to promote a significant increase in global ambition,” while making clear that “both significant short-term global emission reductions and net-zero global emissions by mid-century—or before—are required to avoid setting the world on a dangerous, potentially catastrophic, climate trajectory.”

The order will also commit Biden to hosting a Leaders’ Climate Summit on Earth Day, April 22, 2021; the U.S. to reconvene the Major Economies Forum; and to underscore the administration’s commitment to elevating climate in U.S. foreign policy.

Meanwhile, the order also directs Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines to prepare a National Intelligence Estimate on the security implications of climate change, the State Department to prepare a transmittal package to the Senate for the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal protocol, and all agencies to develop strategies for integrating climate considerations into their international work.

The order also formally establishes the White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy, creating a central office in the White House that is charged with coordinating and implementing Biden’s domestic climate agenda.

With regard to agriculture, the order directs the secretary of agriculture to to “collect input from farmers, ranchers, and other stakeholders” on how to use federal programs to “encourage adoption of climate- smart agricultural practices that produce verifiable carbon reductions and sequestrations and create new sources of income and jobs for rural Americans.”

Biden’s order also directs the secretary of the interior to pause on entering into new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or offshore waters to the extent possible, launch a rigorous review of all existing leasing and permitting practices related to fossil fuel development on public lands and waters, and identify steps that can be taken to double renewable energy production from offshore wind by 2030.

The White House said the order “formalizes” Biden’s “commitment” to making environmental justice part of the mission of each federal agency, by directing them to develop programs, policies and activities to address the disproportionate health, environmental, economic, and climate impacts on disadvantaged communities.

The order creates a government-wide “Justice40 Initiative” with the goal of delivering “40 percent of the overall benefits of relevant federal investments to disadvantaged communities.” Meanwhile, Biden is also set to sign a presidential memorandum on Wednesday focused on scientific integrity, in an effort to “send a clear message” that his administration “will protect scientists from political interference” so that they can “think, research, and speak freely to provide valuable information and insights to the American people.”

Biden, on Wednesday, also signed an executive order to re-establish the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

The council is set to also advise Biden on scientific and technical information needed to “inform public policy relating to the economy, worker empowerment, education, energy, environment, public health, national and homeland security, racial equity, and other topics.”

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