December 16, 2020
President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. Biden-Harris Transition, 1401 Constitution Ave NW Washington, DC 20001
Dear President-elect Biden,
Congratulations on winning the Presidential election and thank you for your slate of promised executive actions to address the climate crisis, including phasing out fossil fuel production and use, protecting workers and communities, and building back better to a fossil fuel free, clean, renewable energy economy.
Toward that end, the undersigned organizations, on behalf of our 380 organizations representing millions of members and supporters, urge you to issue the following Executive Order to avert the climate emergency by using existing federal laws to initiate a managed phaseout of fossil fuel production and invest in a just, clean, distributed, and democratic energy system that works for all:
EXECUTIVE ORDER ON AVERTING THE CLIMATE EMERGENCY
By the authority vested in me as the President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:
Sec. 1. Declaration of a National Climate Emergency. I, JOSEPH BIDEN, President of the United States of America, find that the climate crisis, caused primarily by fossil fuels, poses an existential threat to every aspect of society. Warming temperatures are already causing more destructive wildfires, stronger hurricanes, worsening droughts, floods, and coastal erosion from rising seas. From the spread of disease, to destabilizing food and water security and the unraveling of natural ecosystems, the climate crisis already is killing people across the nation and is costing the U.S. economy billions in damages every year. The harms from fossil fuel extraction and climate disruption are not felt equally, but instead fall first and worst on Black, Brown, Indigenous, and other Communities of Color, as well as low-wealth and other frontline communities.
The overwhelming scientific consensus has definitively concluded that without deep and rapid emissions reductions, warming will exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius and will result in catastrophic damage around the world. Every fraction of additional warming above 1.5 degrees Celsius will worsen these harms, threatening lives, health and safety, livelihoods, the environment, economy, and national security for this and future generations. Global emissions must be reduced by half over the next decade to limit warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Accordingly, it is in the national interest for the United States, based on our cumulative emissions and respective capabilities, to lead the way by reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 70 percent by 2030 and to near zero by 2040. We must transform our extractive economy to a regenerative and inclusive one, in a manner that dismantles systemic racism and advances environmental, racial, and economic justice.
Therefore, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, including sections 201 and 301 of the National Emergencies Act, 50 U.S.C. § 1601 et seq., I hereby declare that climate change is a national emergency, and that sections 42 U.S.C. § 6212a(d)(1)(A), 10 U.S.C. §2808, and 50 U.S.C. §§ 4531 are hereby invoked and made available for the relevant actions below.
Sec. 2. Utilizing the Clean Air Act to Reduce Greenhouse Pollution. The Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. § 7401 et seq., provides the most powerful programs to address air pollution and has protected the air we breathe for over half a century. The full force of this law must be utilized to constrain greenhouse gas emissions to keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Therefore, I hereby direct the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator to undertake the following:
The EPA Administrator shall consider the threats greenhouse gas pollutants cause to public health and welfare and shall make findings pursuant to Clean Air Act sections 108 and 115 within 90 days of this Order. By December 31, 2021, the Administrator shall set air quality criteria and propose primary and secondary national air quality standards pursuant to Clean Air Act section 109. By June 30, 2022, the Administrator shall finalize standards pursuant to section 109. In setting such standards, the Administrator shall take into account that protecting the public health and welfare from the most devastating climate damage requires reductions in greenhouse gas pollution to limit warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The EPA Administrator shall, within one year of this Order, propose and promulgate regulations pursuant to Clean Air Act section 111 for stationary sources of greenhouse gases for the oil and gas sector, petrochemical plants, cement plants, coal mines, pulp and paper plants, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) and other sources as determined by the Administrator. In setting standards that require industry to reduce emissions through the “best” system of emissions reduction that has been “adequately demonstrated,” the Administrator shall achieve the maximum possible pollution reductions. The Administrator shall require oil and gas to be produced with the lowest possible methane emissions, and shall not allow higher methane emissions by setting separate standards for ultra-hazardous extraction techniques including fracking.
The EPA Administrator shall immediately commence development of new, increasingly stringent greenhouse gas emission standards for cars and light trucks, medium and heavy-duty trucks, and buses and promulgate standards that achieve the maximum possible emissions reductions. For passenger vehicles, the standards shall require efficiency improvements of at least 7% per year and shall require 100% of new vehicles sold to be zero emissions by no later than 2030.
The EPA Administrator shall promptly promulgate strong technology-forcing standards for emissions of greenhouse gas pollutants from aircraft. Such standards shall be technology forcing and require fuel efficiency improvements of at least 3.5% annually and electrification of short haul and long haul flights by 2040 and 2045, respectively. Such standards shall apply to existing, new and newly-designed aircraft, and take into account the full array of operational and design modifications that will reduce engine emissions.
The EPA Administrator shall promptly promulgate strong technology-forcing standards for emissions of greenhouse gas pollutants from the remaining transportation sectors, including marine engines, locomotives, and other non-road engines with the goal of fully decarbonizing these sectors as quickly as possible.
Sec. 3. Ending Approval of New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure Projects. New fossil fuel infrastructure projects, including pipelines, import and export terminals, storage facilities, and refineries are incompatible with limiting warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Therefore, I hereby direct all federal agencies to deny such approval or funding and to refrain from constructing or contributing to any new fossil fuel infrastructure project, except where and only to the extent such approval, funding, or action is mandated by existing law.
Further, I order all federal agencies to consider each project’s greenhouse gas emissions and contribution to climate change when considering whether to approve, fund, or construct other non- fossil fuel infrastructure projects. Federal agencies shall ensure that such projects reduce climate pollution and are otherwise consistent with limiting warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Federal agencies shall not approve projects that do not meet this standard, except where and only to the extent such approval, funding, or action is mandated by existing law.
Sec. 4. Protecting Air, Water, Wildlife and Climate from Fracking. I direct the Interior Secretary to place an immediate moratorium on fracking on public lands and waters and initiate an environmental review of the climate, air and water pollution, wildlife habitat destruction, human health and other harms caused by fracking. At the conclusion of the review the Secretary shall initiate a rulemaking to ensure protection from the environmental impacts identified. Such rule shall permanently ban fracking, unless it is demonstrated that any fracking would be consistent with limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and cutting greenhouse emissions by 70 percent by 2030 and to near zero by 2040, and that the other risks of and damage from fracking have been eliminated.
Sec. 5. Banning Oil and Gas Exports and Addressing Fossil Fuel Imports. The export of crude oil exacerbates the climate emergency. Therefore, pursuant to my declaration of a national climate emergency under the National Emergencies Act and in accordance with section 301 of that Act, I hereby invoke the authority provided in 42 U.S.C. § 6212a(d)(1)(A). Upon the publication of this declaration of a climate national emergency in the Federal Register, all crude oil exports shall be prohibited for one year.
Pursuant to the Natural Gas Act, 15 U.S.C. § 717 et seq., I find that gas exports are not in the public interest due to the climate harm, and hereby order the Department of Energy to immediate cease approving new applications for the export of gas on that basis except to the degree approval is otherwise required by 15 U.S.C. § 717b(c).
I hereby instruct the Secretary of Commerce to immediately investigate the impact of the import of coal, oil, gas, industrial plastics, and any other related products upon national security pursuant to section 232 of the U.S. Trade Expansion Act, 19 U.S.C. § 1862, et seq. If the Secretary of Commerce finds that such imports are harming our national security, I will take action to impose trade bans and restrictions on such harmful trade products.
Sec. 6. Driving the 100% Clean Energy Transition with Green Manufacturing, Federal Procurement and Distributed Generation. The climate crisis demands that the country swiftly replace fossil fuel sources with clean, renewable, and resilient energy, battery storage, smart grid infrastructure, and energy efficiency technologies to achieve 100% clean electricity by 2030.
Therefore, by the authority vested in me by the Defense Production Act, 50 U.S.C. § 4501 et seq., I direct the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Energy to use the full powers of the Defense Production Act to, within six months of this Order, mobilize the domestic production of clean and renewable energy under project labor agreements to defend the country against the climate emergency while creating millions of family-sustaining jobs and spurring the nation’s clean energy export market.
All agencies shall within six months of this Order submit plans ensuring that all agency operations and properties are powered by 100% clean energy by 2025 and maximize storage and energy- efficiency technologies. The Tennessee Valley Authority and all power marketing administrations shall submit plans in the same timeframe to achieve 100% clean energy by 2025, including at least 25% for distributed and community solar. All plans shall require the purchase of clean energy and energy-efficiency technologies that are domestically manufactured and incorporate Buy America, Buy Clean, project labor agreements, and high environmental standards.
Pursuant to my declaration of a climate emergency under the National Emergencies Act and in accordance with section 301 of that Act, I hereby invoke the authority provided in 10 U.S.C. §2808 and direct the Secretary of Defense to utilize such authority to reprogram military funds toward construction of clean and renewable energy, battery storage, and smart grid infrastructure projects on military and government-owned properties, including electric vehicle charging stations at every U.S. Post Office.
Pursuant to my declaration of a climate emergency under the National Emergencies Act and in accordance with section 301 of that Act, I hereby invoke the authority provided in 50 U.S.C. §§ 4531 and direct the Secretary of Energy utilize such authority to extend critical loan guarantees to clean energy developers, including communities and electric cooperatives, for distributed energy systems and to reallocate agency resources to expand technical expertise programs for community solar. Separately, I direct the Secretary of Agriculture to purchase stranded fossil fuel assets of rural cooperatives conditioned on their transition to 100% clean energy portfolios by 2030 pursuant to the Rural Electrification Act.
Sec 7. Shifting financial flows from fossil fuels to climate solutions. The climate emergency not only poses an existential threat to our planet, but also to our economy. Science and justice demand investments in climate solutions instead of dirty fossil fuels.
I hereby direct the Secretary of the Treasury, in their capacity as the chair of the Financial Stability Oversight Council, to carry out their mandate to preserve financial stability by managing climate risks to large financial institutions including bank holding companies, insurance companies, and asset managers. This should include mitigating both those companies’ vulnerability to climate risk, and their contributions to systemic climate risk via their support for fossil fuels and deforestation. Such measures should include stress testing for climate risks, capital and margin requirements that incorporate climate risk, and portfolio limits linked to climate change.
I hereby direct the Department of Energy to end all loan and guarantee financing programs for fossil fuels and abolish the Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy.
I direct the State Department, U.S. Treasury, U.S. Export-Import Bank, and U.S. Development Finance Corporation, and US AID to prohibit any U.S. government finance to fossil fuel projects and related infrastructure overseas and finance only clean energy infrastructure and climate mitigation and adaptation measures.
I direct all federal agencies to ensure that polluters who enter into settlements in connection with corporate wrongdoing are not able to deduct the payments from their taxes, thereby stopping the shift of a significant portion of the burden onto taxpayers.
Sec. 8. Establishing a Just Transition Council. I hereby establish an interagency Just Transition Council consisting of the EPA, Departments of Labor, Energy, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, Commerce, Interior, and Defense. Consistent with the principles set forth in this order and in accordance with applicable law, including the Federal Advisory Committee Act, the
Council should consist of representatives from unions, Indigenous Peoples, frontline community organizations, nonprofit organizations, civil rights organizations, businesses, State and local governments, and youth organizations. Within six months, the Council shall create a comprehensive, multi-industry, national program that guarantees support and protection for the workers and communities that have been most affected by fossil fuel extraction and the decline of the fossil fuel industry, as well as vocational opportunities and achieving high labor standards for workers in the clean energy industry.
Sec. 9. Advancing Climate Justice. Promoting a truly just society must be at the center of all climate policy. I further direct federal agencies to take the following specific actions to assess and mitigate environmental harms to disproportionately impacted Black, Brown, Indigenous, and other Communities of Color, as well as low-wealth and other frontline communities:
Pursuant to Executive Order 12898, I hereby direct all federal agencies (i) to pro-actively “mitigate,” instead of only “identify and address,” disproportionate health and environmental impacts of their programs on Black, Brown, Indigenous and other communities of color, as well as, low-wealth and other frontline communities; and (ii) to use geographic, socioeconomic, and environmental hazard metrics when identifying environmental justice communities, similar to the robust criteria developed in New York state legislation on climate justice.
I direct the Departments of Treasury and Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to commence a study for mitigation and payment of damages to those deliberately and disproportionately exposed to and harmed by fossil fuel pollution and toxins.
I direct the Department of Justice to institute rules to protect the rights of individuals protesting climate and environmental harms, including from extreme prosecution and disproportionate sentencing for such persons.
I direct the Departments of Justice and Interior to investigate and, as appropriate, seek damages and restoration from fossil fuel industry actors found responsible for damages to public lands and waters, including the Gulf of Mexico.
Finally, addressing climate justice in the United States means necessarily addressing the climate- induced migration and displacement which is both affecting populations newly migrating into the country, as well as those within it. I hereby direct all federal agencies to pro-actively identify and implement new policies that respond to and absorb the growing number of climate-displaced persons who are impacted by extreme weather events and other climate impacts. The new policies must preserve the human rights, health, safety, and dignity of all persons affected by climate- induced migration and displacement.
Sec. 10. Holding Polluters Accountable. For decades, fossil fuel, utility, and other companies have understood the dangers associated with their products and manufactured elaborate disinformation campaigns to deceive the public about climate science and the harms caused by greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, I hereby direct the Attorney General to investigate and prosecute all such violations to the maximum extent of the law, including by supporting the nuisance and fraud suits brought by states and local governments. The Attorney General shall also investigate and prosecute antitrust violations by utilities with respect to competing clean energy sources. The Attorney General shall fully account for the government’s full range of criminal, civil, regulatory and administrative remedies in taking the above actions.
Sec. 11. Rejoining the Paris Agreement and Re-Establishing Global Leadership on Climate. I hereby declare, upon my signing an instrument of acceptance of the Paris Agreement, the United States shall re-enter as a party into the global agreement and accept the agreement’s articles and clauses.
I direct the Secretary of State to submit to the secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change a new nationally determined contribution (NDC) of the country’s commitment to greenhouse gas reductions in light of its fair share of the global effort to address the climate crisis within 60 days of this Order. The new NDC shall reduce domestic greenhouse gas emissions by at least 70% below 2005 levels by 2030 and commit to supporting developing countries with financial and technological assistance to achieve an additional 125% reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with the U.S.’s fair share.
Sec. 12. General Provisions. Nothing in this Order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof. This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations. This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
Climate activists gathered outside the CNN studios in New York, where a Town Hall on Climate Policy was held on September 4, 2019. The activists demanded that leading Democratic presidential candidates commit to meaningful climate action. (Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket/Getty Images)
President-elect Joe Biden must swiftly move once in office to “avert the climate emergency” with a series of actions to ensure the nation invests in “a just, clean, distributed, and democratic energy system that works for all.”
That’s the demand Wednesday from over 380 groups who’ve sent Biden a draft executive order (pdf) that details how, exercising executive authority, he can rein in greenhouse gas emissions and safeguard the environment while boosting jobs and community wellbeing.
“There’s no time to lose.”
—Kassie Siegel, Center for Biological DiversityThe new effort was convened by organizations including the Center for Biological Diversity and the Indigenous Environmental Network and is backed by a diverse collection of hundreds of state and national groups including Fire Drill Fridays, Breast Cancer Action, the National Family Farm Coalition, and the Sunrise Movement. International organizations including the Center for International Environmental Law and Global Witness are also listed as supporters.
President Donald Trump’s outgoing administration, said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute and one of the key authors of the order, has taken a wrecking ball to the climate—making efforts to address the global crisis even more urgent.
“Our house is ablaze with a fire fanned by Trump for four years,” Siegel said in a statement. “There’s no time to lose. Biden must take bold action the moment he steps into the Oval Office, without punting to a dysfunctional Congress.”
“This order,” Siegel added, “is the road map for Biden to be the climate president we need.”
The first of the actions laid out is Biden declaring a National Climate Emergency, thus acknowledging the crisis “poses an existential threat to every aspect of society.”
“We must transform our extractive economy to a regenerative and inclusive one, in a manner that dismantles systemic racism and advances environmental, racial, and economic justice,” says the draft order.
Biden must tap the Environmental Protection Agency administrator with enacting standards under the Clean Air Act to limit greenhouse gases and set regulations to “achieve the maximum possible pollution reductions.”
Automotive standards must also be renewed so that all new cars are zero emission “by no later than 2030.”
The order would also ban new fossil fuel infrastructure, declaring such projects “incompatible with limiting warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius,” the more ambitious target of the Paris climate accord. Other, non-fossil fuel projects’ impacts on the climate crisis must also be taken into consideration when federal approval is required.
Biden’s executive actions must further include an immediate ban on fracking on public lands. He must also kick-start an environmental review of the extraction process that ends with a full ban, unless it’s proven that damage from fracking has been eliminated, and that fracking is compatible with achieving the 1.5 degrees of warming threshold and slashing “greenhouse emissions by 70% by 2030 and to near zero by 2040.”
“He can’t lose unless he goes back to business as usual.”
—Joe Uehlein, Labor Network for SustainabilityIn addition to reinstating the ban on crude oil exports, the order calls for Biden to tap the Defense Production Act to “mobilize the domestic production of clean and renewable energy under project labor agreements to defend the country against the climate emergency while creating millions of family-sustaining jobs and spurring the nation’s clean energy export market.”
Alongside that action, the Pentagon must divert funds toward “construction of clean and renewable energy, battery storage, and smart grid infrastructure projects on military and government-owned properties, including electric vehicle charging stations at every U.S. Post Office.”
Climate solutions must also be funded, the order says, which necessitates no federal funding of fossil fuel projects.
A Just Transition Council, made up of a broad range of stakeholders, would also be established under the order. That body would support workers and communities on the front lines of the fossil fuel industry. And to more fully address environmental justice, the order would have the federal government actively mitigate environmental harms to communities and fairly address climate refugees.
Beyond merely rejoining the Paris agreement, the order calls for a new nationally determined contribution (NDC) of greenhouse gas emissions that reflects a slashing of at least 70% below 2005 levels by 2030, and for financial backing of developing countries’ efforts to reduce their planet-warming emissions.
Joe Uehlein, founding president of the Labor Network for Sustainability, called the order “a jobs plan as much as a climate plan.”
“Biden can address the climate emergency and create thousands of good-paying union jobs in the process,” said Uehlein. “He can’t lose unless he goes back to business as usual.”Our work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Feel free to republish and share widely.
A Pathway to Net-Zero by 2050: A new report from Princeton University released yesterday details five pathways for achieving net zero emissions in the US by 2050, with “priority actions” the US should take before 2030. A highlight across all pathways is total or near total electrification of energy use across the US economy. Additional recommendations include building a significant amount of new energy infrastructure, increasing wind and solar generating capacity, expanding the nation’s electric grid, and transitioning homes off natural gas. The research puts the price tag of this near-term action at $2.5 trillion, but calculates it will create at least half a million jobs and save tens of thousands of lives. The report also identifies several pitfalls the transition could face, including local opposition to land-use for renewable infrastructure and a lack of public support for electric cars and homes. “The costs are affordable, the tool kit is there, but the scale of transformation across the country is significant,” said Jesse Jenkins, a Princeton professor and lead author of the report. (New York Times $, Washington Post $, Axios, Bloomberg $)
Joe Biden’s Climate Cabinet: President-elect Joe Biden’s cabinet is beginning to emerge, as yesterday news broke that he is expected to tap former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm to lead the Department of Energy, with former EPA head Gina McCarthy to serve a central domestic policy coordination role at the White House. The Department of Energy will play a major role in Biden’s plan for decarbonization, and if confirmed, Granholm is expected to draw on her experience passing a renewable portfolio standard for the state of Michigan, as well as her work on Electric Vehicles with the auto industry as governor. Gina McCarthy, Obama-era EPA admin and current head of NRDC, will lead the newly formed Office of Domestic Climate Policy, coordinating Biden’s domestic response to climate change and serving as a counterpart to John Kerry, who will focus on international climate policy as special presidential envoy for climate. The nominations were well-received by climate activists, with Sunrise spokesman Garret Blad quoted in the Washington Post saying that “We are very encouraged by the potential of Gina McCarthy to lead a new Office of Climate Mobilization. McCarthy was among our initial picks for the role because she understands the urgency of the latest science and the need to use every tool available in the executive branch to stop the climate crisis. The real test, however, of Biden’s commitment to his bold climate plan is if this role has the teeth necessary to be effective.” (Granholm: Politico, CNN, Washington Post $, Bloomberg, NPR, Huffpost, The Detroit News, Michigan Live. McCarthy: Washington Post $, New York Times $, CNN, Buzzfeed, NPR, Politico, Bloomberg, Reuters, Axios, The Hill, Grist. Both: NBC News, WSJ $, Roll Call, Bloomberg $)
Late to the Party: US Federal Reserve Joins Climate Network: The Federal Reserve unanimously voted yesterday to join the Network of Central Banks and Supervisors for Greening the Financial System (NGFS), an international group of central banks and regulators dedicated to assessing climate risk. Previously, the US had been the only major central bank not part of the group aside from the Reserve Bank of India, although it had been participating informally in the network for over a year. The move comes after a group of House Republicans sent a letter to the Fed Chair Jerome Powell last month urging him not to join the network, citing that NGFS policies could harm US oil and gas producers. “As we develop our understanding of how best to assess the impact of climate change on the financial system, we look forward to continuing and deepening our discussions with our NGFS colleagues from around the world,” Fed Chair Jerome Powell said in a statement. (Reuters, New York Times, The Hill)
100% clean power? Don’t wait for new technology, study says
David Iaconangelo, E&E News reporterPublished: Tuesday, December 15, 2020
The United States could transition to 100% carbon-free electricity more cheaply if it focuses on existing technologies and a national build-out of transmission, rather than next-generation technologies like carbon capture and small nuclear plants, according to a new study.