White House climate action leaders talk about Biden's executive orders

Gina McCarthy, National Climate Advisor spoke at a White House press conference to highlight elements of President Biden's climate action initiatives.


"Today, President Biden will build on the actions he took on day one, and he’ll take more steps to fulfill commitments he made to tackle the climate crisis while creating good-paying union jobs and achieving environmental justice.

In his campaign, he and Vice President Harris put forward the most ambitious climate vision that any presidential ticket had ever embraced, and he spent more time campaigning on climate than we have ever seen. 

The President also has consistently identified the climate crisis as one of four interrelated existential crises that are gripping our nation all at once, and he’s demanding answers that can address all four.  And he’s not waiting to take action, getting us started on his first day in office, because science is telling us that we don’t have a moment to lose to fight against all four of these crises in a way that recognizes their intersectionality. 

Biden signs sweeping climate orders

He’s always committed the U.S. to reenter — I’m sorry, he’s already committed the U.S. to reenter the Paris Climate Agreement.  And he committed us, as well, to start undoing the assault on our environment that has occurred over the past four years.  And he is now taking additional action to really target the challenge of climate change. 

So today, for me, is a very good day.  Just one week into his administration, President Biden is continuing to move us forward at the breadth and the pace that climate science demands. 

Today’s executive order starts by saying, "It is the policy of this administration that climate considerations shall be an essential element of U.S. foreign policy and national security."  That’s where the big guy comes in.  It gives my colleague, John Kerry — the first-ever international climate envoy — the authority to really drive forward a process that will restore American leadership on climate throughout the world.  And you will see and hear more about that from Secretary Kerry.

But, here at home, we have to do our part or we will not be able to make the kind of worldwide change that climate change demands. 

So this executive order establishes a White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy, and it directs everyone who works for the President to use every tool available at our disposal to solve the climate crisis because we’re going to take a whole-of-government approach.  We’re going to power our economy with clean energy.  We’re going to do that in a way that will produce millions of American jobs that are going to be good-paying, that are going to be jobs that have the opportunity for workers to join a union. 

Because, as President Biden has often told us, when he thinks of climate change, his first thought is about jobs.  And it should be, because people in this country need a job, and this is about making that happen in the most creative and significant way that the federal government can move forward.  And we’re going to make sure that nobody is left behind, and I’m not just talking about communities, in terms of environmental justice, but workers as well. 

This order takes historic strides to address environmental injustice.  It creates both a White House interagency task force to address environmental justice, as well as an advisory council.  It directs the Department of Health and Human Services to create an Office of Climate Change and Health Equity because, after all, climate change is the most significant public health challenge of our time. 

And it tasks the Department of Justice with establishing an Office of Climate Justice because we know the communities who are being hurt, and we know we have to start enforcing the standards today and ensuring that they are part of the solution and in places that we can invest.  In fact, it commits 40 percent of our investment in clean energy towards disadvantaged communities so they can benefit from the new jobs that are available and see that better future. 

President Biden’s order establishes a Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities because we have to make sure that, in this transition, every agency in government is using every tool at their disposal to drive resources to those communities.  And it fulfills longstanding commitments to leverage our vast natural resources to contribute to our clean energy future. 

It places a pause and review on new oil and gas leases on federal public lands and waters, consistent with a promise President Biden has repeatedly made and has been very clear in the face of efforts to distort his promise.  And it sets a goal of doubling offshore wind production by 2030. 

In addition, he plans to sign a presidential memorandum that aims to restore scientific integrity across the federal government and earn back the public’s trust, making a commitment to base solutions on the best available science and data. 

So today is a very big day for science and for our efforts to power our economy with good-paying union jobs. "


Former Secretary of State John Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate also took the podium to highlight key points of the Biden climate agenda.

"Good afternoon, everybody.  It’s great to be here.  Let me say, first of all, what a pleasure it is to be here with Gina.  I’m a big fan of Gina’s.  Gina and I worked very, very closely together during the campaign when we sat down to bring the Bernie Sanders folks together around the Biden climate plan.  And she is the perfect person to be tackling the domestic side of this equation, which is complicated.  And nobody knows the details better than she does, and nobody is going to be more effective in corralling everybody to move in the same direction. 

It’s also an enormous pleasure for me to be here with Jen Psaki.  She mentioned that — nobody was her boss, but I had the privilege of working with her.  And she — seven years ago, we gathered in the State Department briefing room.  She’s traded up, obviously, but she has not given away any of her fundamental principles and commitment to telling you all the truth, telling the American people the truth, and doing so with great candor and transparency.  And I’m very happy to be here with her.

The stakes on climate change just simply couldn’t be any higher than they are right now.  It is existential.  We use that word too easily, and we throw it away.  But we have a big agenda in front of us on a global basis, and President Biden is deeply committed — totally seized by this issue, as you can tell by this executive order and by the other — the initiative for getting back into Paris immediately.  That’s why he rejoined the Paris agreement so quickly because he knows it is urgent. 

He also knows that Paris alone is not enough — not when almost 90 percent of all of the planet’s emissions — global emissions — come from outside of U.S. borders.  We could go to zero tomorrow and the problem isn’t solved.

So that’s why today, one week into the job, President Biden will sign this additional executive set of orders to help move us down the road, ensuring that ambitious climate action is global in scope and scale, as well as national, here at home.

Today, in the order that he will sign — that Gina has described to you — he makes climate central to foreign policy planning, to diplomacy, and to national security preparedness.  It creates new platforms to coordinate climate action across the federal agencies and departments sorely needed.  And most importantly, it commissions a National Intelligence Estimate on the security implications of climate change to give all of us an even deeper understanding of the challenges.

This is the first time a president has ever done that.  And our 17 intelligence agencies are going to come together and assess exactly what the danger and damage and potential risks are.

The order directs the State Department to prepare a transmittal package, seeking Senate advice and consent on the Kigali Amendment, to the Montreal Protocol — an amendment that by itself, if ratified and fully enforced globally, could hold the Earth’s temperature by 0.5 of an entire degree — not insignificant.

And it sets forth a process for us to develop an ambitious new Paris target, as well as a U.S. climate finance plan, both of which are essential to our being able to bring countries of the world together to raise ambition and meet this moment when we go to Glasgow for the follow-on agreement to Paris.

So that’s the only way for the world to succeed together, my friends.  And so, again, this is an issue where failure literally is not an option.

As he committed to doing on the campaign trail, the President is announcing that he will host a Leaders Summit on Climate Change less than three months from now, on April 22nd, Earth Day, which will include a leader-level reconvening of the Major Economies Forum.  We’ll have specifics to layout over time. 

But the convening of this — of this summit is essential to ensuring that 2021 is going to be the year that really makes up for the lost time of the last four years and that the U.N. Climate Conference — COP26, as it’s called, which the UK is hosting in November — to make sure that it is an unqualified success. 

The Road to Glasgow will be marked not just by promises, but by progress, at a pace that we can all be proud of.  And Gina is going to be putting her efforts into making certain that that is true.  The world will measure us by what we can do here at home.

So with these executive actions today, we believe we’re steps further down that journey."