By Madeleine MacGillivray Wallace.
Following President Biden’s inauguration on January 20th, news of his recent and planned climate-related actions have inspired millions of conscious Americans and set the environmental sector abuzz. As both a conscious American and a member of the environmental sector, I can attest to the jolt of informed optimism. Many are already familiar with the Administration’s big decisions: Biden’s decision to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, pass a moratorium on new drilling projects on Federal lands and waters, and cancel the Keystone XL permit – a huge win for the Indigenous-led movement.
New announcements are being made each day: just last week we learned of countless new executive orders. Three big ones include the 30×30 plan which aims to protect 30% of public lands and waters by 2030, as well as the establishment of both a Civilian Climate Corps and a National Climate Task Force composed of leaders across 21 federal agencies and departments. We now know that Biden has a climate plan and he seems serious about it.
As we swiftly exit an era in which talking about positive climate legislation in America was basically the same thing as telling a joke, we must not interpret Biden’s actions as a green pass for passivity. They are wondrous and radical in context; in reality, they are simply necessary. And as with the Keystone XL fight, we must amplify the continued grassroots and national climate fights that groups of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color have led and to whom we credit increased climate justice for the entire country.
“As an American, I am cautiously optimistic.”
Climate policy that does not also uplift BIPOC and low-income communities is simply obsolete, and, especially with Rep Deb Howland’s appointment to the Dept of the Interior, it is clear President Biden knows this. President Biden has not only established a White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council, but has also updated Executive Order 12898 to include the Justice40 Initiative which focuses on delivering benefits to disadvantaged communities and is tracked with a tool called EJSCREEN.
As an American, I am cautiously optimistic. But do the actions outlined in Biden’s plan translate to climate relief that not only cancels emissions but reverses the current damage done globally? Biden’s halting of drilling on federal US lands comes during the same week that the Canadian government has rolled back federal protective policies to the opposite effect. What matters most is the collective global actions which cumulatively decrease global atmospheric CO2 levels.
Every 4 years in the US, the outgoing administration’s revolving door environmental policies can, and in many cases are, cancelled within the first week of the new administration. Biden needs to establish a system that isn’t driven by party politics – and after the seventh hottest year on record according to NASA, we must ensure that Biden’s actions prove lasting and fit to serve as an international example for other countries to follow.