Gita Subramony, ERS
After living through 4 years of climate denialism and anti-science rhetoric, the Biden-Harris administration represents a shift in the right direction for the U.S. to address the climate crisis; however, the policies this administration enacts will have to make up for lost time.
The outgoing Trump administration withdrew from the Paris climate agreement, halted the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which sought to limit GHG emissions from existing power plants, reduced fuel efficiency standards for vehicles, and removed regulations preventing limiting methane leaks from fossil fuel facilities, among other rollbacks for environmental regulations.
In contrast, the incoming Biden administration’s sustainable infrastructure plan seeks to put America on a “path to achieve net-zero emissions, economy-wide, by no later than 2050.” The new administration plans on rejoining the Paris climate agreement immediately as well as revoking permits for the Keystone XL pipeline, too. Biden has also appointed John Kerry as a climate envoy to facilitate international collaboration on the climate crisis.
At home, the new administration will lean on the U.S. Department of Energy to build the clean energy economy and aid with recovery from the COVID-induced economic downturn. Jennifer Granholm, the former governor of Michigan, will head the department, which will likely make use of $40 billion in unused loan funding leftover from the Obama administration to fund clean energy businesses. Overall, Biden plans to invest $2 trillion in sustainable infrastructure and the clean energy economy.
We can certainly expect a return to policies similar to the Obama-era, but the Biden-Harris administration will have to go significantly beyond that in order have an effect on climate change. Additionally, the new administration faces the challenge of dealing with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and the resulting economic downturn. New policies will have to creatively address ensuring environmental justice for all Americans while creating stable and good-paying jobs in the clean energy sector and providing viable training opportunities.