Biden’s first year: A robust record of climate action

Elizabeth Gore

When President Biden was sworn into office one year ago today, he promised to lead an unprecedented, whole-government approach to fighting climate change and advancing the clean energy economy. 

While the country is still waiting for Congress and the White House to push the transformative investments of the Build Back Better Act across the finish line, we have nonetheless come a long way over this past year. 

President Biden has made significant progress on his commitments to use every avenue he can to create jobs, cut pollution, promote environmental justice and lower energy costs for American families.

In his first year in office, Biden has:

Re-established the U.S. as a global leader on climate change. 

In a direct rebuke of the previous Administration, President Biden used his very first day in office to announce that the U.S. would rejoin the Paris Agreement, an international pact signed by more than 190 countries to commit to action to avert catastrophic climate change. 

He followed that with a pledge to cut U.S. climate pollution by 50%-52% by 2030, putting the U.S. in the top tier of global climate ambition. And he didn’t stop there. 

President Biden has made good on his promise to re-establish American leadership on climate change by hosting an international leaders summit last spring, declaring that the U.S. will work with China to tackle climate challenges (including methane pollution), joining more than 100 countries in committing to end deforestation this decade and backing the LEAF Coalition — a public-private effort to mobilize funding for large-scale forest protection.

Appointed climate leaders to key administration roles.

President Biden created a “climate cabinet” that includes senior officials in key leadership positions throughout the federal government who are making climate action a priority. In the White House, he's installed heavy hitters like John Kerry and GIna McCarthy to lead on climate change. And with Deb Haaland at the Department of the Interior, Michael Regan at the Environmental Protection Agency, Pete Buttigieg at the Department of Transportation and many more, Biden has ensured that these incredibly influential federal agencies are led by individuals who put climate action front and center.

Advanced environmental justice.

Low-income communities and communities of color often face the worst impacts of climate change and air and water pollution. Biden has taken this gross injustice seriously: He has established the first-ever White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council to raise awareness of EJ issues and provide guidance to government entities on how to address them. He has also established the historic Justice40 initiative to commit at least 40% of the overall benefits from federal investments in climate and clean energy to overburdened  communities.

Prioritized clean energy deployment.

The transition to the clean energy economy will create jobs, cut pollution and lower costs for American families. Biden has aggressively moved to embrace that transition. 

He announced the largest offshore wind lease in American history, transmission-line upgrades to facilitate delivery of more clean energy, renewed interagency coordination on offshore wind and fast-tracked deployment of onshore clean energy on public lands.

Laid out a plan to protect American wilderness. 

The Biden Administration’s plan will ensure that 30% of U.S. lands and waters are designated as protected land by 2030. This includes restoring protections to such treasured landscapes as Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante and more.

Cut climate and energy pollution.

The administration has also made important progress on cutting pollution through agency actions. They finalized the strongest-ever pollution standards for cars and passenger trucks, proposed historic climate and health protections to strengthen and expand limits on methane pollution from the oil and gas industry and removed deeply harmful rules installed by the previous administration that censored science and distorted the economic impact of air pollution.

Signed the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

The bipartisan infrastructure bill that President Biden signed into law late last year is a first step toward building a stronger, cleaner economy. It includes several critically important climate investments, including funding for electric vehicle charging stations, clean electric buses, community resilience against natural disasters, lead pipe replacement, the cleanup of polluting orphan oil and gas wells and an expansion of broadband to support farmers and rural communities. Importantly, it also provides a massive $20 billion investment in clean energy research and development.

Championed the Build Back Better Act.

The historic bill, which includes an unprecedented half-trillion dollars in funding to advance the clean energy economy, still needs to be passed by Congress. Biden has made advancing the bill a central priority of his administration, and EDF is working closely with other stakeholders to support the administration’s effort to finalize this bill.

 • We’ve come far — but we still have a long way to go.

For all the progress President Biden has made, the work is far from over. 

Congress must pass the Build Back Better Act as soon as possible. It will be the most ambitious climate action in American history. It will create jobs, cut pollution, help communities around the country and lower energy costs for American families. 

We also need to ensure that the bipartisan infrastructure bill is implemented effectively and equitably, so that communities most in need of more resilient infrastructure receive the funding required to get the job done. And we must keep growing the federal budget for climate innovation so we can create a new generation of climate-smart technologies.

We applaud President Biden for setting the United States and the world on a path toward the climate action we need.

Now, Congress and the White House need to finish the job by passing legislation to ensure a clean, safe and equitable future.

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