Climate Change Executive Orders and Bills
President-elect Donald Trump announced on Monday that the U.S. will freeze oil leasing. This action is an immediate measure, but will not help the country meet specific goals for several years. The executive order will also reveal the United States' updated pledge under the Paris Agreement, known as the "nationally determined contribution," at the global climate leaders summit on April 22. While the order is a statement of intent, the specific goals of the new administration will be years away.
Biden's "whole-of-government" approach
Vice President Joe Biden has done more to combat climate change than any previous American president. In a statement issued shortly after he took office, he urged world leaders to take the steps needed to keep warming well below 1.5 degrees Celsius. He has enlisted the help of all branches of government to reduce emissions and aid the world's most vulnerable nations cope with climate impacts. Despite the challenges involved, President Biden has made great strides toward this goal.
The "whole-of-government" approach that Biden proposes will build on Senator Markey's Climate Change Health Protection and Promotion Act and develop a national climate crisis strategy. This strategy would address the growing risk of climate disasters, including heat waves, sea level rise, wildfires, and air pollution. Biden's plan would provide additional CDC grants to states to help them implement strategies that reduce emissions.
As Vice President, Biden also wants the government to prioritize efforts to reduce traditional air pollution in disadvantaged communities. He will ask his Cabinet to prioritize the strategies that reduce traditional air pollution. The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) will then publish a report within 100 days. This report will advise states on how to prioritize emission reductions in disadvantaged areas. Further, the Executive Order will require federal agencies to follow the federal Buy American Executive Order.
The "whole-of-government" approach will emphasize environmental justice in federal government policy. The Biden administration will revitalize two key environmental justice groups in the federal government. The White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC) and the White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council will report to the White House Council on Environmental Quality, where Biden will appoint senior staff dedicated to this area. This group will also revamp Executive Order 12898.
In addition to advancing climate goals, President Biden has promised to develop 25 GW of renewable energy on public lands by 2030. Yet allowing the Willow project to proceed would essentially erase any progress in renewable energy policy by 2030. By contrast, a recent study by the Center for American Progress suggests that the amount of carbon pollution saved by 2030 by allowing the Willow project to proceed would double.
Trump's executive order
The latest revocation of Obama's executive orders on climate change is an attack on the Paris Agreement and the Clean Power Plan. Both were key aspects of the Obama administration's international commitment to curb carbon pollution. The new executive order, however, will do just the opposite, as it does not mention climate change at all. Instead, it focuses on restoring national monuments and restoring the Arctic refuge. It also revokes a permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline, which is included in the order's general provisions.
The executive order is unlikely to change the nation's economic trends, which will likely continue moving away from coal and toward more renewable sources of energy. In addition, it is silent on whether Trump would pull the United States out of the Paris climate accord - a pledge by the previous administration to cut greenhouse gas emissions by about two-thirds by 2025. Earthjustice said it would challenge the order in court. And while the administration disagrees on the matter, the broader policy trend towards renewable energy and natural gas is clear.
The current administration is attempting to reshape the American narrative on climate change. This is one reason why a climate change skeptic such as Scott Pruitt has been appointed as head of the EPA. But even in such a case, climate change skeptics are calling on the new administration to reconsider its decision. And while climate skeptics claim that the executive order will lead to more jobs in the energy and oil industries, opponents say the US government is merely trying to save jobs.
The Executive Order aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is an immediate step in the right direction. Among other measures, it requires agency heads to present a list of rules they are considering for revision or reconsideration. The order also directs the Office of Management and Budget and the Biden administration's national climate advisor to consider the "social cost" of carbon before taking major actions. In addition, it also establishes a working group to study the "social cost" of carbon emissions before making a decision.
The state of Connecticut's response to climate change has come in the form of an executive order. The order, signed by Governor Dannel Malloy on October 5, calls for a broad range of climate adaptation measures. It aims to improve the resilience of vulnerable communities, preserve budgets, and prepare the state's economy for the impacts of climate change. The executive order identifies several priorities, including climate adaptation, clean energy, and energy efficiency, and focuses on building and infrastructure, transportation, community climate resilience, equity, environmental justice, and jobs. The executive order calls on the state's Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to develop strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and implement stronger climate mitigation policies.
The executive order calls on state agencies and businesses to reduce their carbon emissions. The state has not made significant commitments to climate change policies in recent years, and the General Assembly has shown reluctance to join the regional effort. The executive order calls for increased investments in climate change initiatives and decarbonization programs. It also encourages Connecticut to participate in regional efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Ultimately, this executive order will increase Connecticut's ability to adapt to climate change.
While Connecticut's executive order calls for nearly two dozen actions, a majority of the proposals are not supported by the Republican Party. Republicans criticized the governor for leaving out legislators. House Republican Leader Vincent Candelora urged Democrats to rein in Lamont. Nevertheless, environmental advocates are applauding the overall goals of the executive order. The state's executive order also establishes an equity and environmental justice advisory council to help ensure the success of climate-related projects.
In addition to the executive order, the state legislature has enacted the Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report. The state has a long way to go to mitigate climate change. However, with the state's limited time, Connecticut has been trying to act. Its Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report reveals increasing emissions in the building and transportation sectors, and the state is still lagging behind its interim 2030 target. Thankfully, the executive order has spurred action.
Washington state's response
The latest climate bill in Washington State is a cap and trade program that would regulate greenhouse gas emissions. The legislation also creates an environmental justice task force. However, many environmental justice organizations are concerned that this market-based approach might not reduce pollution and may instead move the burden to low-income communities. Fortunately, a bipartisan coalition of seventeen governors has endorsed the bill. Let's take a look at what's behind it.
The governor's proposed budget would invest $100 million in a new clean energy workforce development program. The program would create high-paying jobs, provide renewable energy grants and expand building energy performance standards. In addition, the state would provide incentives to building owners who meet these standards. While this might not seem like much of a big deal, it's an important step in Washington's climate change response. The state should be willing to invest in clean energy jobs and infrastructure.
The Seattle mayor's executive order includes a number of measures to combat climate change. One such action is the development of a new carbon-based building performance standard. The goal is to cut emissions by 27 percent in Seattle's building sector by 2050. Another policy initiative in Seattle's executive order is the launch of a clean energy workforce committee. Both Durkan and Inslee stressed the importance of collaboration and unity.
While the governor's climate change executive order aims to reduce greenhouse gases, some groups have questioned whether it violates the separation of powers. Even though it does accomplish its goals, the legislation imposed by Gregoire raises questions about the governor's power. For example, the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, a free-market think tank in Olympia, has filed a lawsuit against the order. This lawsuit will likely end in a ruling on the case.
Another important component of the state's climate response is the creation of carbon markets. Washington state's cap imposes a limit on pollution from electricity and natural gas. The system will be enforced through allowances, so companies that pollute more than the cap are forced to obtain those allowances or pay penalties. And while the state is pursuing these policies, it's still a long way from being carbon neutral.
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