Your bi-weekly newsletter for all things climate-related
November 25, 2020
Good morning, friends and climate advocates.
As the dust settles after the election, climate activists look ahead to the challenges and possibilities of a Biden presidency. An equitable green economy could help bridge America’s political divides.
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Elections Matter: Biden Won...What Comes Next?
President-elect Joe Biden speaks about climate change in Wilmington, DE, on September 14th. Source: Jim Watson, AFP via Getty Images
Former Vice President Joe Biden may have won the presidential election, but his work is only just beginning. His predecessor had no plan for climate change and even seemed to revel in exacerbating it by excluding climate experts at every turn, pulling the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement, and rolling back125 environmental regulations including endangered species protections and bans on logging and oil drilling in protected wildernesses.
Yet all eyes are now on Joe Biden, and climate activists seem optimistic. Biden hasso much that he can do with or without Congress, like reinstating environmental regulations that were rolled back by his predecessor. However, the most ambitious plan—a $2 trillion deal to decarbonize the electricity sector and create millions of new clean energy jobs—will hinge upon a Senate majority. It already becomes apparent that congressional Republicans like Senator Mitch McConnell will strive to put major restrictions on environmental legislation, if they allow it to pass at all.
If a Republican majority is maintained within the Senate after Georgia’s runoff election, there are still many executive levers that can be pulled to adopt a more piecemeal agenda. Some of these actions, listed byVox, include:
Aggressive restrictions on methane pollution for new oil and gas operations
Using the federal procurement system (which spends $500 billion per year) to drive toward 100% renewable energy and zero-emissions vehicles
Restricting greenhouse gas emissions from transportation (the fastest-growing source of emissions) by maintaining the Clean Air Act and developing stringent new fuel economy standards
Mandating that public companies maintain consistent reporting on sustainability and climate risks resulting from their operations and supply chains
Preserving biodiversity by enhancing extant conservation measures over American lands and waters and slowing extinction rates
Revoking authorization for the Keystone XL pipeline and denying oil and natural gas companies their export licenses
Doing all of this will require the ability to mobilize industry support and coalitions to take action on climate change and to push the holdouts to do more. Building such alliances will take time, but activists and constituents seem confident that this incoming administration will certainly bring America back on track.
Embracing a Shifting Economy and Its Workers
Every four years, November means the end of an emotionally taxing election season. While the nation breathes a collective sigh of relief, focus has quickly realigned on the herculean obstacles facing our society. The political squabbles are here to stay. However, if the Biden administration is to convince the country that we can tackle the climate crisis, they must work with those who didn’t put him in office as well as those who did.
Despite Joe Biden winning the most votes of any candidate in Presidential history, most Americans still feel a tangible divide. One way to heal this rift could be for the incoming administration to pursue aggressive carbon mitigation strategies while creating also an economy that provides realistic employment opportunities for those impacted by these decisions. As 350.org founder and New Yorker contributor Bill McKibben states in a recent op-ed:
"Biden’s call for unity is real and important, and any plan for the future needs to be very focused on making sure that people currently building oil pipelines have something else to build instead."
McKibben goes on to describe the political opposition, both in-party and across the aisle, but it can be surmised that the challenges facing this generation will require putting righteous ideologies aside and finding the best, and often not perfect, solutions.
The Biden administration will face the task of creating a sustainable economy by the same hands that built the nation's oil refineries, pipelines, and coal mines. We may be facing unprecedented challenges, but if we can transition away from fossil fuels while also creating economic security for working-class families, then we can enshrine sustainability in the foundation of the country and retake the lead in the global fight against a warming planet.