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Biden makes tackling climate crisis ‘essential’ to US policy

The ambitious orders establish Biden’s environmental agenda and mark a reversal from his predecessor Donald Trump.

US President Joe Biden’s administration is expected to announce a new batch of executive actions that put the climate crisis back on the United States government agenda, and return science to presidential advisory status.

The executive orders, expected on Wednesday aimed at combatting climate change, will pause new oil and gas leases on federal land, reduce fossil fuel subsidies, and strengthen measures to protect poor and minority neighbourhoods from pollution, according to the White House.

The orders set the direction for newly sworn-in Biden’s climate change and environmental agenda and mark a reversal from his predecessor Donald Trump, who dismissed scientific facts that industry has caused global warming. He instead sought to maximise US oil, gas and coal output by removing regulations and easing environmental reviews.

Trump also gutted federal science agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency.

Biden’s executive action “clearly establishes climate considerations as an essential element of U.S. foreign policy and national security,” according to a White House fact sheet.

The new Biden orders are aimed towards helping drive the nation towards cleaner energy sources and create well-paying jobs, the fact sheet says. The strategy will also deliver “justice for communities who have been subjected to environmental harm”.

A Navajo Nation couple walk away from their cattle corral in the Bodaway Chapter in the Navajo Nation in Gap, Arizona [File: Stephanie Keith/Reuters]

Biden’s focus on climate change has cheered international partners and environmental advocates, but upset Big Oil, which has been arguing the moves will cost the US millions of jobs and billions of dollars in revenue.

In the orders, Biden will call for a pause on new federal oil and gas leases “to the extent possible” and direct the Department of the Interior to review the programme’s climate impacts and taxpayer benefits. He will also set a goal to conserve 30 percent of federal land and waters by 2030 to protect wildlife.

The orders will affect large swaths of acreage onshore in mostly Western states, as well as offshore drilling acreage located mainly in the US Gulf of Mexico, which combined make up about a quarter of the nation’s oil and gas supply.

The executive orders will affect large swaths of acreage onshore in mostly Western states, as well as offshore drilling acreage located mainly in the US Gulf of Mexico, which combined make up about a quarter of the nation’s oil and gas supply [File: Nick Oxford/Reuters]

The measures are expected to draw criticism from some states that depend on drilling revenue and the oil industry, who have warned that such moves will cost jobs and economic growth.

“We can’t afford to play games with the millions of hardworking Americans whose livelihoods depend on a vibrant energy sector,” Republican Senator from Texas Ted Cruz said in a tweet. “President Biden and radical environmentalists are trying to eviscerate our energy independence and our blue-collar economy,” he said.

The orders also include an announcement that Biden will host an international climate summit on Earth Day on April 22, the creation of new climate change positions and an interagency task force within his government, and measures to boost government procurement of US-sourced clean energy and vehicles, boost science, and assist communities most affected by industrial pollution.

They aim to make good on several of Biden’s campaign promises to tackle climate change while also addressing racial and economic inequality.

The US climate task force will be led by White House domestic climate policy adviser Gina McCarthy, while Biden’s climate envoy, former Secretary of State John Kerry, is expected to lead the administration’s international work on global warming.




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