On January 27, President Joe Biden may have changed the course of history when he signed a pair of executive orders and a memorandum at a White House briefing. We have posted a full transcript of his remarks at the Green Energy Times website, which can be found at www.bit.ly/GET-Biden-remarks.
This briefing focused on an important issue that many major news outlets seem to notice only peripherally, with no mention on their main pages. The responses from the field were enthusiastically positive. For example, Michael Mann said on Twitter, “This is the boldest climate plan that has ever been put forward by an American president.”
Right from the start of the briefing, President Biden did not mince words. He said this:
Today is “Climate Day” at the White House and – which means that today is “Jobs Day” at the White House. We’re talking about American innovation, American products, American labor. And we’re talking about the health of our families and cleaner water, cleaner air, and cleaner communities. We’re talking about national security and America leading the world in a clean energy future.
It’s a future of enormous hope and opportunity. It’s about coming to the moment to deal with this maximum threat that’s now facing us – climate change – with a greater sense of urgency. In my view, we’ve already waited too long to deal with this climate crisis, and we can’t wait any longer. We see it with our own eyes, we feel it, we know it in our bones, and it’s time to act.
The president understands that climate change is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. It is an issue that has negative effects on all Americans and will only get worse unless we address it. And climate change is an issue that creates its own set of needs. One of these is jobs, and the president makes it clear right from the start that dealing with climate change means we will be creating jobs paying good wages for people in all parts of America.
President Biden also speaks of tackling climate change as a matter of national security, and states that this is not an exaggeration. He notes that two thirds of our military bases are threatened in at least some way because of the climate crisis. We have been watching for years as legislators in Congress have heard pleas from military leaders who testified that the crisis is growing, only to do nothing about it. Now we have a president who is getting active about addressing the problems the Pentagon has brought up.
Our response to the climate crisis is critically important. The president called the crisis “existential.” This word is used in exaggerations sometimes, but in this case, it means exactly what it says: We have a crisis that can have a bearing on our very existence, as a society, and possibly as a species.
The president’s plan of actions to tackle these existential crises covers the following:
End fossil fuel subsidies,
Create a task force to plan how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,
Identify climate change as a national security issue,
Protect 30% of federal land and water by 2030,
Create a Civilian Climate Corps,
Address the needs of people living in communities with special pollution problems,
Create a White House interagency council on environmental justice, and
Direct agencies to do science-based decision making.
Addressing climate change will require a lot of work. He said, “[D]ealing with this existential threat to the planet and increasing our economic growth and prosperity are one in the same. When I think of climate change, I think of … jobs.” And they are not just jobs putting up wind turbines or solar panels. They include a huge variety of jobs for nearly every aspect of American life.
There are many areas to note. One is agriculture. The president said he wants to see America be the first country in the world whose agriculture has net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. He also wants to see 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations installed in this country. His orders will have all vehicles of the federal government be electric by 2025.
He wants all electricity generation in this country to be free of carbon pollution by 2035. He points out that 84% of new generating capacity expected to be added this year will be clean, and it is cheaper.
He spoke of new housing being energy-efficient. And he spoke of the financial benefits that efficiency will have for many people, especially those who are from disadvantaged areas and groups. He spoke specifically about the benefits of weatherization which will reduce the cost living for many people.
The change will be driven in part by jobs and education. We need expert iron workers and welders. We need technicians and scientists. We need to build structures, and we need the products of our laboratories.
At the center of all of this is the concept of environmental and economic justice. Many people need these things because of such things as race and lack of access to quality education; others suffer from health problems caused by air pollution or unsafe water. Also, there are people in communities that have been long disadvantaged because of dependence on already dying technologies, including oil, gas, and coal. There is a lot of work to be done, much of it local to these people, which will create more local jobs. President Biden mentioned capping a million oil wells, reclaiming mines, and building economic hubs on brownfield sites. He said, “We’re never going to forget the men and women who dug the coal and built the nation. We’re going to do right by them.”
The executive actions President Biden signed are not just words. They are not a wish list of things we can think about. They direct specific actions. And they will be guided by a team of people who are experts in their fields.
In particular, we could mention Former Secretary of State John Kerry, who will be Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, and the former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, who will be the National Climate Advisor. Of special note, however, is Vice President, Kamala Harris, who ran for president in the primaries as a strong environmental candidate.
We at Green Energy Times say this is an amazing way to start a presidential term. It is a plan that addresses every topic we write about. And it is an outstanding plan to tackle the existential climate crisis that faces us. It is already too late to delay any longer.