President Joe Biden’s first week in office shows how he intends to fulfill his campaign vow to protect the climate, starting immediately by rejoining the Paris climate agreement.
On Wednesday, Biden issued a series of executive actions to leverage almost all federal government agencies in the fight against climate change, emphasizing that the issue is a matter of national security, economic growth and environmental justice.
Following a four-year interruption, an American president will once again rely on scientific expertise, creating a new White House office on climate policy to help guide policymaking on this most critical challenge of our time.
Through Biden’s executive order, America’s manufacturing sector will be harnessed to produce climate-friendly technologies that the Biden campaign estimated could create more than 10 million well-paying jobs.
America’s agricultural sector will be encouraged to pursue new opportunities such as profitable carbon-capture farming practices, while portions of the West’s public lands can be tapped for their rich renewable energy resources.
America’s electric utilities will have new incentives to modernize their power generation technologies and transmission infrastructure to produce clean, affordable and abundant electricity.
America’s transportation sector will gain new opportunities to meet the rapidly growing demand for clean and reliable electric vehicles, trucks and other modes of transport, along with new investments in electrification of the nation’s massive transportation system.
All these industries will rely on regulatory and policy frameworks guided by scientific data and technical information, some of which will come from another Biden executive action implementing science- and evidence-based decision-making in federal agencies.
Biden is also re-establishing the Presidential Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and convening a Climate Summit of international leaders to re-engage with the world community in April.
Attention is focused on the Biden administration, because unless Congress includes climate provisions in a new coronavirus relief bill, or as stand-alone legislation, the primary federal climate policy pathway will remain presidential executive actions.
Why should government be involved in fostering markets for climate-friendly technologies?
Many of America’s biggest high-technology industries today, such as aerospace and computers, became international market leaders thanks to government policies and national security priorities. Remember that protecting the climate helps enhance America’s national security, as climate hazards threaten infrastructure, health, and water and food security in various parts of the world, leading to dangerous instability and conflicts.
At the state level, Colorado has already experienced significant climate impacts such as increased wildfires, more frequent droughts and devastating pine beetle infestations.
However, Colorado, home to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, has a long track record of bipartisan legislative and popular support for clean energy and climate policies dating back nearly two decades. In 2004 Colorado passed a utility renewable energy standard by popular vote. Then, in 2006, Governor Bill Ritter swept into office on a “New Energy Economy” platform that grew the state’s economy in clean energy manufacturing facilities and power generation projects, setting the pace for many other states.
Since then, Govs. John Hickenlooper and Jared Polis, along with state regulatory agencies, have presided over successful new climate and clean-energy goals, to the point that Colorado’s largest utility, Xcel Energy, became the nation’s first large utility to commit to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Colorado’s experience shows that economic growth and climate policies can go hand in hand.
Now, with a president committed to pursuing similar beneficial policies throughout the country, Americans have a chance to develop a vibrant growth industry in climate-friendly technologies.
With national leadership stepping up to the challenge, Americans can, and will, turn the climate challenge into new opportunities.