Six Months Into His Presidency, How Does Biden's Climate Action Hold Up?
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President Biden was elected into office on January 20, 2021, approximately six months ago. One of the causes that he championed in the presidential race was fighting climate change. This gained him much support from groups such as the Sunrise Movement, the BlueGreen Alliance, 350 Action, and more prominent environmental advocacy groups and individual activists. The question is, has he held up on his promises - and should he be doing more?
Let’s start with the positives
Biden’s first day in office he made the move to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, which had been infamously backed out of by former president Donald Trump. The Paris Climate Agreement is a “legally binding international treaty on climate change” according to the United Nations Climate Change website. The Paris Climate Agreement goal is to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius of change from pre-industrial times. It intends to do this by reaching a climate-neutral world by 2050.
Needless to say, this was a very important treaty to be a part of. 196 nations were a part of the Paris Climate Agreement before Biden rejoined it, nearly the entire world. The US rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement through President Biden was much needed, and it was the first step to much more that needed to be done.
During his campaign, President Biden made the promise that the US would achieve 100% clean energy and net-zero emissions by the year 2050, which is in line with the Paris Agreement. Though many scientists and activists think that climate neutrality by 2030 would be best, this is what both the Paris Climate Agreement and President Biden decided on. Though there are conflicting goals, what can be said is this: the sooner the better. The US and the rest of the world have caused so much pollution that the effects of this are already extremely damaging and many irreversible. The longer we wait the more harm will come to communities, striking poor and marginalized people first.
Moving on to the decidedly negative
One of the biggest let-downs of Biden’s climate action is that he trimmed his original climate spending plan from $500 billion a year to only $200 billion a year, cutting it into less than half of his original plan. Economists across the political spectrum have agreed that investing between $600 billion to $1 trillion dollars per year would be what is best, and Biden originally didn’t meet that goal, but now is even further from it.
This cut to Biden’s climate plan has sparked one of the biggest national organizations fighting climate change, the Sunrise Movement, to plan a protest at the White House on June 28th (more info here). The Sunrise Movement also had a protest at the White House on June 4th, 2021 demanding the Biden take more action on climate change. This protest was based mainly around the proposed American Jobs Plan, a multi-trillion dollar infrastructure package. They see this as a way to “kick off the decade of the Green New Deal”, but feel that the Biden Administration hasn’t met the urgency that exists because of the crises we face. More on what the Sunrise Movement says of their June 4th protest here.
Many activists are also criticizing the Biden Administration for not holding up on cutting down on fossil fuels by actively supporting the drilling and burning of oil and gas. The Biden Administration recently defended the Willow Project in federal court. The Willow Project is a large oil drilling operation taking place on Alaska’s North Slope. It was previously approved by the Trump Administration. Republicans of Alaska have seen this as an “olive branch” approach, but this project will cause immense harm to the wildlife in the area, and by extension the people of Alaska and the rest of the world. More information on the Willow project and Biden’s support can be found here.
What more should the Biden Administration be doing?
Getting rid of Trump was not enough to bring justice to the world. There is still much to do and Biden is by no means perfect, as shown above. What else does Biden need to be doing apart from remedying the wrongs he has done already?
The Line 3 Oil Pipeline in Minnesota is currently under much heat. There have been protests going on for a few months now, led mostly by local indigenous people. They are calling for Biden to take action similar to what he took for the Keystone XL pipeline, canceling it through executive order. Line 3 holds the risk of oil spills that would destroy water sources, ancestral lands, and wetlands. It is estimated to have a climate impact equal to 50 coal plants. Biden canceling this pipeline would be in line with what he has promised in his campaign. (more info on the Line 3 pipeline and protests here)
Overall, we need to hold Biden accountable. We as a human race don’t have time to waste in the climate fight. Every new pipeline, every new oil drilling operation, every drop of fossil fuel leads us closer to irreversible and unthinkable damage to the Earth, and by extension our lives. We need to keep protesting and keep pressuring the Biden Administration to put the people first.