How Biden Can Tackle the Climate Crisis: Joe Biden has promised to ensure climate justice, but will his administration rise to the challenge?

AuthorGerhardt, Tina

With the Biden Administration pledging to take the climate crisis seriously, some grounds for optimism exist.

A first auspicious sign was President Joe Biden's creation of two new positions: the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, the first climate-focused appointment to the National Security Council, and the first National Climate Adviser, who will coordinate climate policy across the federal government. To the first post, Biden appointed John Kerry, former Secretary of State (2013-2017) and Senator from Massachusetts (1985-2013); and to the second, he appointed Gina McCarthy, who ran the Environmental Protection Agency during the Obama Administration.

In addition to these two posts, Biden has rounded out his climate team with the following nominations: Jennifer Granholm for Secretary of Energy; Deb Haaland for Secretary of the Interior; Brenda Mallory for chair of the Council on Environmental Quality; and Michael S. Regan for head of the EPA. This team confirms that the administration will focus not only on addressing climate change but also on ensuring climate justice.

Even before he was elected, Biden was already moving in this direction. After establishing the Biden-Sanders Climate Task Force, co-chaired by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and John Kerry, he agreed to a wave of proposals, including a pledge to power the United States with carbon-free sources by 2035. The task force, which adopted many of the benchmarks of the Green New Deal, reflects Biden's openness to working with the more progressive lawmakers and representatives from nongovernmental groups.

That said, the work ahead is enormous. The Biden Administration needs to ramp up action to cut emissions from vehicles, power plants, farms, and homes. According to the EPA, the greenhouse gas emissions for 2018, the most recent year for which figures are available, break down as follows: transportation (28 percent), electricity (27 percent), industry (22 percent), commercial and residential (12 percent), and agriculture (10 percent).

If Biden wants to fulfill his pre-election promises to address climate change, action in the following areas could facilitate the transition to a low-carbon economy while also creating much-needed jobs.

Transportation: Not only could Biden undo Trump's rollback of the Obama Administration's emissions targets for vehicles, he could also set a target year for ending the production of diesel- and gasoline-powered vehicles. Canada, for example, declared in 2017 that, starting in 2040, vehicles sold in the country should produce no emissions. In December, Canada's Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Jonathan Wilkinson, suggested a North America-wide ban on new fossil-fuel-powered...

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