President Joe Biden on Wednesday revealed details of a set of broad environmental executive actions aimed at further tackling what he called the “existential threat” of climate change.
The new “whole of government” Biden administration policies seek to put “climate change at the center of our domestic, national security and foreign policy,” and is drawing criticism for its high cost and potential job losses as the United States is already facing huge pandemic related job losses.
Biden and his climate team said the package of policy changes seek to create jobs in the clean energy industry, but opponents to the radical changes say it will have the immediate impact of destroying millions of jobs in the fossil fuel industry and energy independence.
Biden did not address the direct impact of job loss from the forced move toward renewable energy sources but emphasized the creation of jobs in the renewable energy industry.
“This executive order, it’s about jobs, good-paying union jobs. It’s about workers building our economy back better than before. It’s a whole-of-government approach to put climate change at the center of our domestic, national security, and foreign policy,” Biden said at a press conference on Wednesday. “We can put millions of Americans in the work modernizing our water systems, transportation, our energy infrastructure to withstand the impacts of extreme climate.”
John Kerry, Biden’s special climate envoy and former secretary of state under former President Barack Obama, and Gina McCarthy, Biden’s national climate adviser, gave some background on the new executive orders.
“So, this executive order establishes a White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy, and it directs everyone who works for the president to use every tool available at our disposal to solve the climate crisis because we’re going to take a whole of government approach. We’re going to power our economy with clean energy,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy emphasized Biden’s effort to create jobs, including current workers who will feel the impact of Biden’s policy changes. She also said the EO will create an advisory council to address environmental justice and direct various federal departments to work on climate change and health equity.
“It commits 40 [percent] of our investment in clean energy towards disadvantaged communities so they can benefit from the new jobs that are available and see that better future,” McCarthy said.
She reiterated Biden’s pause and review on new oil and gas leases on federal public lands and waters, and his commitment to meeting the goal of doubling offshore wind production by 2030.
Meanwhile, Kerry said rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement is to combat the crisis, so the president wants to take a drastic measure.
“We could go to zero tomorrow and the problem isn’t solved. So that’s why today, one week into the job, President Biden will sign this additional executive set of orders to help move us down the road, ensuring that ambitious climate action is global in scope and scale, as well as national here at home,” he said at a press briefing on Wednesday.
Biden faces skepticism about the new regulations and they’re ruining millions of jobs, including from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), a top-ranking House Republican, also criticized the orders.
“Pie-in-the-sky government mandates and directives that restrict our mining, oil, and gas industries adversely impact our energy security and independence,” she said. “At a time when millions are struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the last thing Americans need is big government destroying jobs, while costing the economy billions of dollars.”
Patrick Morrisey, West Virginia’s attorney general, called the actions radical and said Wednesday that Biden’s policies will destroy jobs at a time when the economy is already weakened.
“Well, I think they’re really destructive to the American economy. And I think it’s important for everyone watching to have a little bit of context here. Yes, there was a very robust discussion during the last presidential campaign,” Morrisey told Fox News. “But what we’re seeing in the first week of the Biden administration is that the President is really taking a wrecking ball to many of the states that have oil, gas, coal, manufacturing jobs, that’s going to have a real detrimental impact, especially as the American economy is coming out of COVID-19, a pandemic.”
The Biden/Harris pre-White House plan for the environment had outlined making a sweeping $2 trillion investment in the first term, which would set the United States “on an irreversible course to meet the ambitious climate progress that science demands,” the campaign website states.
“Biden believes the Green New Deal is a crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face. It powerfully captures two basic truths, which are at the core of his plan: (1) The United States urgently needs to embrace greater ambition on an epic scale to meet the scope of this challenge, and (2) our environment and our economy are completely and totally connected,” it states.
Tom Ozimek contributed to this report