WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Joe Biden signed executive orders on Wednesday that aim to harness the entire federal government to combat climate change domestically and abroad, putting the issue at the core of his presidency.
The orders carry out several of the Democratic president’s campaign pledges to tackle climate change and environmental justice, and mark a sharp reversal from his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, who aimed to maximize U.S. oil, gas and coal production by sweeping away environmental and climate protections.
The following are some of the key measures in Biden’s executive orders:
The orders direct the interior secretary to “pause new oil and natural gas leases on public land or in offshore waters” ... to allow for “a comprehensive review” of the program’s impact on climate change and benefits to taxpayers.
They also direct the interior secretary to increase renewable energy production on federal acreage, including doubling offshore wind development by 2030, while ensuring some 30% of federal land and waters are conserved.
FOSSIL FUEL SUBSIDIES
The orders direct heads of agencies to halt fossil fuel subsidies within the bounds of the law and for the director of the Office of Management and Budget to “eliminate fossil fuel subsidies from the budget request for Fiscal Year 2022 and thereafter.” Congress has the final say on budget allocation, meaning some of the oil industry’s subsidies could survive with enough backing from lawmakers.
The orders establish a White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy to coordinate policies across the government. The national climate adviser, Gina McCarthy, will create a task force consisting of all major Cabinet secretaries to develop “key Federal actions to reduce climate pollution and increase resilience to the impacts of climate change.”
INTERNATIONAL CLIMATE FINANCE AND DIPLOMACY
Under the direction of the special presidential climate envoy, John Kerry, the United States will develop a climate finance plan to help “developing countries in implementing ambitious emissions reduction measures, protecting critical ecosystems, building resilience against the impacts of climate change, and promoting the flow of capital toward climate-aligned investments and away from high-carbon investments.”
The president will also hold a world leaders’ summit on climate change on April 22, by which time Washington will aim to unveil a carbon-cut pledge for 2030 under the Paris climate agreement.
The orders require the White House to create an environmental justice interagency council and an advisory council to “increase the Federal Government’s efforts to address current and historic environmental injustice.”
They also direct the council to publish recommendations for how to direct 40% of benefits from clean-energy investments to the most disadvantaged communities for remediation, sustainable housing and workforce training.
REVITALIZING ENERGY COMMUNITIES
Biden will create an Interagency Working Group to help parts of the country that are expected to be most affected by a transition away from fossil fuels.
The orders call on the Treasury secretary to develop a strategy for how the United States can influence international financial institutions, including the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund, to invest in projects that are climate friendly and avoid those that are not.
The orders make climate change a priority for national security and foreign policy. They require the director of national intelligence to prepare a National Intelligence Estimate on the security impact of climate change within four months.
The orders require the government to devise a plan within 90 days to use “all available procurement authorities” to buy American-made products to help achieve a goal of a carbon pollution-free electricity sector by 2035, and achieve a zero-emission federal vehicle fleet.
Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Peter Cooney
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