News Brief: Biden answers ‘a cry for survival’

During his inaugural address, President Joe Biden said “A cry for survival comes from the planet itself, a cry that can’t be any more desperate or more clear.” On his first day in office, the new President signed a number of executive orders intended to answer that cry.

In this news brief, we discuss President Biden’s actions to restore protections for Nature and human health and to address the worsening climate crisis.

President Biden signed an order signaling the United States’ return to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. He also suspended the permit for completion of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline—which is intended to carry oil from Alberta’s tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico, for export.

He also issued orders that:

  • Protect Nature and endangered species;
  • Favor energy conservation for home appliances;
  • Aim to reduce car pollution;
  • Curb toxic chemical pollution and protect drinking water.

The United Nations has welcomed the US return to the Paris Agreement, as have a number of world leaders. Even after withdrawal, the US was still an observer to the Paris process. Now, 195 other nations will demand evidence of America’s commitment—including both convincing climate leadership and a strategy for ensuring the US does not backslide politically again.

Joe Robertson tells host Don Shelby: “That’s where the power of this move is—the US can show leaderhsip, can reset expections and can catalyze action from other countries.”

This also points to the power of the Paris Agreement: In Paris, in 2015, all nations committed to enact real climate solutions, meaning the US and other historic polluters were no longer alone in being bound to act. Those commitments are nationally determined, but they have to effectively reduce climate-forcing emissions, and they must get stronger over time. No backsliding is allowed.

In terms of sheer scale, China’s commitment to net-zero will require more actual emissions reduction than anyone else, because China’s economy now emits more global heating pollution than anyone else. And, the US has to catch up: China is selling a lot of renewable energy technology, and Europe is far ahead on policy design, commitment, and the investment transition.

The Biden approach touches every cabinet agency, and could set a whole new standard for the world. If fully implemented, Biden’s climate strategy will leverage all of the elements of American influence to cut pollution and build the world’s leading clean economy.

This is an opportunity to realign national priorities with the work of building a sustainable future economy. Government, business, communities, innovators and inventors, all have roles to play, but as President Biden acknowledged, real long-term success will require legislative action as well.

During his inaugural address, President Biden cited the “painful lesson” of “lies told for power and for profit” and declared:

Each of us has a duty… to defend the truth and defeat the lies.

The truth is: A healthy society, a prosperous society, a strong middle class rooted in robust, diversified local economies… all of those things are built into the climate transition, if we move quickly and decisively enough.