Joe Biden signs executive orders to tackle climate change

27 January 2021, 21:33

President Joe Biden signs a series of executive orders on climate change
President Joe Biden signs a series of executive orders on climate change. Picture: PA

By Megan White

President Joe Biden has issued executive orders to cut oil, gas and coal emissions and double energy production from offshore wind turbines in a bid to combat climate change.

The orders target federal subsidies for oil and other fossil fuels, and halt new oil and gas leases on federal lands and waters.

They also aim to conserve 30% of the country's lands and ocean waters in the next 10 years and move to an all-electric federal vehicle fleet.

Mr Biden's sweeping plan is aimed at slowing human-caused global warming but it also carries political risk for the president and Democrats as oil and coal-producing states face job losses from moves to sharply increase US reliance on clean energy such as wind and solar power.

"We can't wait any longer" to address the climate crisis, Mr Biden said at the White House.

"We see with our own eyes. We know it in our bones. It is time to act."

He said his orders will "supercharge our administration's ambitious plan to confront the existential threat of climate change".

Mr Biden has set a goal of eliminating pollution from fossil fuels in the power sector by 2035 and from the US economy overall by 2050, speeding what is already a market-driven growth of solar and wind energy and lessening the country's dependence on oil and gas.

The aggressive plan is aimed at slowing human-caused global warming that is magnifying extreme weather events such as deadly wildfires in the West and drenching rains and hurricanes in the East.

Mr Biden acknowledged the political risk, repeatedly stating that his approach would create jobs in the renewable energy and automotive sectors to offset any losses in oil, coal or natural gas.

"When I think of climate change and the answers to it, I think of jobs," Mr Biden said. "We're going to put people to work. We're not going to lose jobs. These aren't pie-in-the-sky dreams. These are concrete actionable solutions. And we know how to do this."

In a change from previous administrations of both parties, Mr Biden is directing agencies to focus help and investment on the low-income and minority communities that live closest to polluting refineries and other hazards, and the oil and coal-patch towns that face job losses.

Mr Biden pledged to create up to a million jobs building electric cars, as well as installing solar panels, wind turbines, "capping abandoned walls, reclaiming mines, turning old brownfield sites into the new hubs of economic growth".

Even so, Republicans immediately criticised the plan as a job killer.

"Pie-in-the-sky government mandates and directives that restrict our mining, oil, and gas industries adversely impact our energy security and independence," said Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state, the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

"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," she said.

Mr Biden is also elevating climate change to a national security priority. The conservation plan would set aside millions of acres for recreation, wildlife and climate efforts by 2030.

President Donald Trump, who ridiculed the science of climate change, withdrew the US from the Paris global climate accord, opened more public lands to coal, gas and oil production and weakened regulation on fossil fuel emissions.

Experts say these emissions are heating the Earth's climate dangerously and worsening floods, droughts and other natural disasters.

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