Biden Takes First Steps to Tackle Climate Crisis, Signaling a Welcome Return to Science-based Policymaking

Statement by Dr. Kathleen Rest, Executive Director, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Jan 20, 2021

Upholding promises made on the campaign trail, President-elect Joe Biden has announced that he will release executive orders that address the climate crisis, including by rejoining the Paris climate agreement, reverse the previous administration’s harmful policies and advance environmental justice.

Below is a statement by Dr. Kathleen Rest, executive director at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

“The sweeping nature of these executive orders are an important down payment in addressing the tatters left behind by President Trump. They seek to reverse policies that fly in the face of science, harm public health and degrade the environment. There are so many elements to highlight, including rejoining the world community in the Paris Climate Accord.

“I’m particularly pleased that the administration will consider revising vehicle fuel economy and emissions standards and will ensure that federal agencies, when issuing regulations, account for the full costs of global warming pollution, including climate risks and environmental justice. I’m also heartened that federal agencies will consider revising methane emissions standards, as well as appliance and building efficiency standards.

“Undoing the damage that the previous administration has inflicted on this country is a massive job, but these wide-ranging executive actions show the Biden administration is up to the challenge. With these day one measures, President Biden is delivering on his promise, demonstrating that climate change will be at the top of his administration’s agenda. And his skilled climate team knows what it takes to make progress.

“The science couldn’t be clearer: the time for incremental climate action has long since passed. We welcome a bold vision to limit the worst impacts of climate change—one grounded in science and racial and economic equity and created with local environmental justice communities.

“Going forward, achieving the full breadth of President Biden’s climate action blueprint will require strong approaches across many sectors—from embracing the economic and public health benefits of renewable energy, modernizing the grid, increasing energy storage, and electrifying our transportation system to incentivizing science-based farming practices to safeguard our food supply and farmers’ livelihoods. The plan must also invest in climate-resilient infrastructure, help frontline communities prepare for climate impacts, and support a just transition for coal-dependent workers. We look forward to working with the Biden administration and Congress to ensure that science and equity guide their decisionmaking as they work to address climate change over the next four years.”

Related resources:

UCS released a separate statement on the United States rejoining the Paris Agreement, which can be found here.

Here are the top four ways the Biden administration can center environmental justice reform.

For more information on policies the Biden administration and Congress can adopt to address the climate crisis, click here.

The Biden administration could make clean transportation for all a reality; here is how.

Recommendations on science-based food and agriculture policies the Biden administration and Congress can adopt are available here.

Here is what the Biden administration can do to protect federal science.