While states and cities affect progress in the fight against climate change, meeting the scale and urgency of the crisis requires a holistic, nation-wide strategy that includes collaboration with international efforts. In other words, effective federal policy is essential  and the executive branch has profound effects on our progress — or lack thereof — mitigating and adapting to climate change.

On May 3, 2019, National Geographic Magazine published an updated timeline (dating back to March, 2017) of the Trump Administration’s first two years of environmental actions and policy changes. Although much of the piece focuses on deregulations, it covers executive orders as well, including two, signed on April 9, 2019, which smoothed the path for companies to build oil and gas pipelines and limit the tools states have to block them, not to mention Trump’s earlier order to increase logging of forests on federal land, signed on December 21, 2018, a day before the government shutdown. More recently (in late October 2020), when NG was following the presidential campaigns, they reported on what Trump was doing (and promising) and what Biden was promising if elected.  President Biden’s executive orders will be listed here as they take place.

During his last six years in office, Barack Obama flexed his executive powers to create numerous environmental regulations despite a Republican controlled Senate. While President Obama had a Democratic congressional majority his first two years in office, the immediacy of the 2008 economic crash distracted from the sweeping legislation to combat climate change that Obama had promised. When the Republicans took the Senate in 2010, leaving the Congress divided and paralyzed, Obama turned to executive orders to move the needle on climate change. He enacted rules to bring down emissions across the US economy and established more national monuments than any other president.

However, Obama’s reliance on executive power drew ire from his adversaries who argued sweeping regulations — like the Clean Power Plan, which expanded the 1970 Clean Air Act— exemplified an abuse of executive power. When the Republicans took the Presidency as well as the Senate in 2016, President Trump moved swiftly to deregulate Obama’s efforts. The very executive powers that allowed Obama to enact regulations helping to curb carbon emissions by nearly 10% between 2008 and 2015 allowed President Trump to strip those rules away.

In just four years, the Trump administration rolled back 98 environmental rules, with 14 more rollbacks in progress. This includes replacing the Clean Power Plan with a version that allows states to set their own rules, weakening fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards for cars and trucks, and cancelling a requirement for oil and gas companies to report methane emissions . Ten Obama-era environmental rules that the Trump Administration attempted to reverse have been reinstated through lawsuits and other challenges. For example, the Trump Administration delayed publishing energy standards for household appliances, but were forced to do so when environmental groups sued.

The Executive branch plays a pivotal role in international diplomacy and has the potential to position the US as a leader in combatting climate change and moving towards resilience. For example, the Clinton Administration participated in negotiating the Kyoto Protocol, the first international greenhouse gas reduction effort. Unfortunately, the Bush Administration effectively withdrew US four years later. Similarly, the US joined the Paris Climate Accords in 2015 during the Obama administration and withdrew just two years later — a decision made by President Trump that took effect in November 2020.  President Biden’s website has extensive information about his plans to combat climate change.

On January 20th, 2021, President Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. On his first day in office, President Joe Biden moved to rejoin the Paris Agreement — which will take 30 days to take effect. He also signed an executive order entitled, “Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis.” This establishes the Biden administration’s commitment to immediately work to confront both the causes and impacts of climate change by implementing policy guided by science. The order rolls back many actions taken by the Trump administration to loosen environmental standards and protections, and calls on all federal agency heads to review and “consider suspending, revising, or rescinding the agency actions” that may be inconsistent with Biden’s articulated policy. The order is divided into eight sections: (1) policy; (2) immediate review of environmental actions taken during President Trump’s term; (3) restoring national monuments; (4) Arctic refuge; (5) accounting for the benefits of reducing climate pollution; (6) revoking the March 2019 permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline; (7) other revocations; and (8) general provisions.

As directed by that Executive Order, major Federal agencies were required to develop an adaptation and resilience plan to address their most significant climate risks and vulnerabilities. On October 7, 2021, the White House announced the release of those plans. You can read them here.



Climate Change and U.S. Financial Regulators: Overview and Recent Actions

Under the Biden Administration,financial regulators have announced a range of new measuresto address financial risks associated with climate change. The Department of the Treasury, theSecurities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the Federal Reserve have each…

Federal Action on Climate

Given the far-reaching nature of the climate challenge, effective federal policy is needed to achieve deep, long-term reductions in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and to help strengthen climate resilience across the U.S. economy. Even in…

U.S. Climate Regulation Database

This is a database of regulations and other efforts undertaken by federal agencies to address the causes and impacts of climate change. Regulations administered by EPA are organized by topic; other materials are organized by their…

95 Environmental Rules Being Rolled Back Under Trump

President Trump has made eliminating federal regulations a priority. His administration, with help from Republicans in Congress, has often targeted environmental rules it sees as burdensome to the fossil fuel industry and other big businesses.

A running list of how President Trump is changing environmental policy

The Trump administration has promised vast changes to U.S. science and environmental policy—and we’re tracking them here as they happen.


Biden’s climate executive orders are a mini-Green New Deal

By Dana Nuccitelli   02/03/21  
Imagine a deployment of federal investments to curb U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from various sectors including electricity, transportation, and agriculture, with the goal of creating millions of jobs and an eye on correcting environmental injustices…

Biden’s Climate Day Confronts A Tricky Question: What Should We Do About Mining?

By Alexander C. Kaufman  Photo by Patrick Fallon   01/28/21  
On Wednesday, President Joe Biden signed a series of executive orders that paused new oil and gas leasing on federal lands, directed the government’s international financing entities to phase out funding for fossil fuel projects…

The Battle Takes Shape

By Coral Davenport and Lisa Friedman  Photo by Doug Mills   01/27/21  
President Biden on Wednesday signed a raft of executive orders on climate that focus on three main themes: job creation, environmental justice and weaving climate change into every facet of the government.

Biden to pause oil and gas sales on public lands

By Matthew Daly   01/27/21  
President Joe Biden is set to announce a wide-ranging moratorium on new oil and gas leasing on U.S. lands, as his administration moves quickly to reverse Trump administration policies on energy and the environment and…

Biden, Emphasizing Job Creation, Signs Sweeping Climate Actions

By Lisa Friedman, Coral Davenport and Christopher Flavelle   01/27/21  
President Biden on Wednesday signed a sweeping series of executive actions — ranging from pausing new federal oil leases to electrifying the government’s vast fleet of vehicles — while casting the moves as much about…

Biden’s Pause On New Oil And Gas Leasing ‘Will Not Significantly Impact’ The Industry

By Alexander C. Kaufman and Chris D’Angelo  Photo by Leah Millis   01/26/21  
The executive order, part of a suite of climate actions, could set the stage for bigger policies down the road.

Climate Change Once Again Appears On White House Websitep

By Mary Papenfuss  Photo: The Washington Post via Getty Images   01/22/21  
Climate change vanished as a relevant governmental issue almost the instant Donald Trump became president when all mention of it was scrubbed from his administration’s website. But its reality was once again recognized on the…

The U.S. Is Officially Rejoining The Paris Agreement

By Alexander C. Kaufman   01/21/21  
Ramping up domestic climate ambition, greening “green” supply chains, and investing in carbon removal are some ways the U.S. can restore faith in its climate leadership.

On Day 1, Biden Is Putting Donald Trump’s Climate Rules Through A Paper Shredder

By Chris D’Angelo and Arthur Delaney   01/20/21  
Hours after his inauguration Wednesday, President Joe Biden will flex his executive muscle with a blitz of orders aimed at dismantling his predecessor’s legacy. Along with an order fulfilling his promise to reenter the U.S.…

Trump administration proposes 11th-hour plan to strip California desert protections

By Troy Farah  Photo: Mario Tama, Getty Images   01/18/21  
The outgoing Trump administration is proposing to strip away protections for millions of acres of California desert, threatening damage to Joshua trees, desert tortoises and landmarks.

A Late Burst of Climate Denial Extends the Era of Trump Disinformation

By Lisa Friedman and Christopher Flavelle  Photo: CSpan.org   01/12/21  
Two Trump administration officials have been reassigned over the posting of debunked papers, with the imprimatur of the White House, that questioned the scientific consensus on climate change.

Moving forward after four years of fights and falsehoods

By Brian Bienkowski   01/12/21  
As the US turns the page on a skeptical and openly hostile administration, environmental science and journalism face continued obstacles—but there is some optimism.

Here’s How Scientists Want Biden to Take on Climate Change

By Andrea Thompson  Photo: Johannes Eisele, Getty Images   01/12/21  
For the past four years, climate experts have watched with dismay as Donald Trump’s presidential administration has systematically weakened climate regulations, bolstered the use of fossil fuels that drive rising temperatures, and sidelined government climate…

Inside the C.I.A., She Became a Spy for Planet Earth

By William J. Broad  Photo: Eve Edelheit, The New York Times   01/05/21  
Linda Zall played a starring role in American science that led to decades of major advances. But she never described her breakthroughs on television, or had books written about her, or received high scientific honors.…

With Biden, The Whole Climate Will Change

Ken Silverstein  Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images   01/04/21  
During the Trump Administration, a dark cloud hung over the nation’s environmental movement and specifically any attempts to mitigate climate change. But the election of Joe Biden to the presidency will change that — certainly…

5 Environmental Stories That Could Dominate In 2021

By Laura Paddison  Photo: Carlos Osorio/POOL/AFP via Getty Images   12/30/20  
As the climate crisis worsens, the coronavirus pandemic rages, and Joe Biden prepares to take office, a look at big environmental stories that could define the next year.

Looking Ahead to 2021 – Implications of a Change in Administration on Environmental Policy

By Karen A. Winters, Allen A. Kacenjar Jr., Carolyn L. McIntosh, Kendra S. Sherman   12/07/20  
The tumultuous presidential election is working its way to a close and, while the vote counting and litigation continue, we evaluate below the implications of a change in Administration on environmental policy in the US.

In Rare Move, Trump Administration Rejects California’s Request for Wildfire Relief

By Thomas Fuller and Derrick Bryson Taylor   10/16/20  
The state had asked last month for federal aid to help recover from six of this year’s fires, including the Creek Fire, which is among the largest in state history.

DOJ’s Attack on ‘Supplemental Environmental Projects’ Extends to Citizen Plaintiffs

By Caleb J Homes   07/16/20  
The Department of Justice, in the last year, has altered its guidance related to supplemental environmental projects (SEPs), first prohibiting their use in settlements with state and local governments, then extending that prohibition to settlements with private…

Trump Is The Most Anti-Conservation President In History, Analysis Finds

By Chris D'Angelo  Photo by Saul Loeb   05/21/20  
David Bernhardt, who replaced Zinke atop the federal agency, has carried the torch forward, just not for himself. “One of the president’s priorities is to strive to ensure a conservation legacy second only to Theodore…

Trump admin slaps solar, wind operators with retroactive rent bills

By Nichola Groom   05/18/20  
The move represents a multi-million-dollar hit to an industry that has already seen installation projects canceled or delayed by the global health crisis, which has cut investment and dimmed the demand outlook for power.

Climate movement moves online during coronavirus pandemic

By Dino Grandoni  Photo: Etienne Laurent/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock   03/25/20  
With the covid-19 pandemic forcing Americans to stay indoors, the climate movement is moving online.

Finance Ministers Grapple Over Economic Threat of Climate Change

By Alan Rappeport and Lisa Friedman  Photo by Yahya Arhab   02/23/20  
The United States, under pressure from Europe, agreed to include a climate reference in an official G20 statement.

FERC Decisions Could Undermine Renewables and Energy Storage in New York Capacity Markets

By JEFF ST. JOHN   02/21/20  
The two-Republican majority on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has issued another set of decisions that will aid fossil-fuel power plants at the expense of renewable energy and energy storage — this time in New…


By Aristos Georgiou   02/12/20  
Environmental experts have slammed the Trump administration's proposed federal budget for fiscal year 2021, saying it could "virtually eliminate" climate programs overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The President’s Budget is Out: Here are Five Areas of Concern

By Amelia Kegan, Diana Ohlbaum   02/11/20  
Perhaps the best thing that can be said about President Trump’s budget request for Fiscal Year 2021 is that Congress will likely ignore it.

What Trump proposed in his 2021 budget

By Brittany Renee Mayes, Jennifer Liberto and Damian Paletta   02/10/20  
The Trump administration released its 2021 budget request on Monday, seeking big reductions at several federal agencies but largely protecting money for the Pentagon, Medicare and Social Security. The budget plan is supposed to kick…

Trump proposes deep energy, environmental cuts

By George Cahlink  Photo by Kevin Dietsch   02/10/20  
President Trump's $4.8 trillion fiscal 2021 budget proposal released today once again seeks to slash many energy and environmental programs to help shore up national security spending. Like last year, the White House wants to…

What’s in President Trump’s Fiscal 2021 Budget?

By Sheila Kaplan  Photo by Samuel Corum   02/10/20  
President Trump has proposed a record $4.8 trillion budget for the 2021 fiscal year, and while Congress decides what to fund, the document provides a window into the White House’s spending priorities.

The Energy 202: Trump administration considers changing way it decides how to use public lands

By Dino Grandoni  Photo by Brian Melley   01/31/20  
The Trump administration is considering rewriting the rules on how it decide which public lands can be used for mining, drilling and grazing -- and which to preserve for recreation and conservation.

Science ranks grow thin in Trump administration

By Annie Gowen, Juliet Eilperin  Photo by Nati Harnik/AP   01/24/20  
Dozens of government computers sit in a nondescript building here, able to connect to a data model that could help farmers manage the impact of a changing climate on their crops.

One of Our Most Important Environmental Laws Just Turned 50—Cue Trump Attacking It

By Jeff TurrentineTo celebrate the 50th birthday of one of America's most important environmental laws, President Trump has decided to make a mockery out of it.On the first day of January 1970, President Richard M.…

White House aims to roll back bedrock environmental law to speed development

By Rebecca Beitsch   01/09/20  
The White House on Thursday issued sweeping changes to one of the nation’s bedrock environmental laws, allowing greater industry involvement in environmental reviews of projects and diminishing the role climate change plays in those assessments.

Trump Seeks Overhaul of Federal Environmental Rules

By Timothy Puko  Photo by Nicholas Kamm   01/09/20  
President Trump proposed the first comprehensive overhaul of National Environmental Policy Act rules in more than 40 years, saying changes are needed to streamline approval of highways, energy pipelines and other infrastructure projects, as part…

White House update of key environmental law would exclude climate change

By Juliet Eilperin, Josh Dawsey and Brady Dennis   01/03/20  
The Trump administration will instruct federal agencies to no longer take climate change into account when measuring the impact of major infrastructure projects, according to two senior administration officials — a sweeping overhaul of one…

Science Under Attack: How Trump Is Sidelining Researchers and Their Work

By Brad Plumer and Coral Davenport  Photo: Erin Schaff/The New York Times   12/28/19  
In just three years, the Trump administration has diminished the role of science in federal policymaking while halting or disrupting research projects nationwide, marking a transformation of the federal government whose effects, experts say, could…

Trump administration OKs leasing for new oil drilling in California — again

The Trump administration on Thursday gave the go-ahead to new oil-drilling leases on federal land in California, mostly around petroleum-rich Bakersfield but also in less-obvious spots in the Sierra foothills, such as near Yosemite National…

Trump officials want to cut some oil and gas wells a break on royalty payments in the Gulf

By Dino Grandoni  Photo: Reuters   11/22/19  
The Trump administration wants offshore drillers to tap more of the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico for oil and natural gas production.

Trump Says He’s ‘Very Much Into Climate’ Amid Withdrawing U.S. From Paris Agreement

The president spoke at the Economic Club of New York and indicated that he wants Americans to have "the cleanest air on the planet."

Trump’s Withdrawal From Paris Agreement Begins in One of the ‘Darkest Moments in American Diplomacy’

The Trump administration formally informed the UN that it would withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement Monday, the first day that it was possible to do so, The New York Times reported.NoneThe move comes…

Agencies dismiss concerns about Trump’s California water plan

With a tweet, President Trump kick-started the battle over water that flows through a fragile delta habitat for endangered fish. Now his agencies are saying it could alleviate the effects of climate change. Critics say…

Trump administration rule to shrink exclusion boundaries near pesticide applications

A new EPA rule proposal would shrink enforcement responsibilities for farmers by narrowing the areas they must restrict human contact during pesticide applications.

Trump administration rejects new protections for iconic Alaska tree

An iconic Alaska tree that is dying off from rising forest temperatures and diminished winter snowpack was deemed ineligible by U.S. wildlife officials on Friday for special protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

Trump administration ends five-year oil and gas drilling moratorium in California

By Miranda Green  Photo: iStock   10/04/19  
The Trump administration Friday announced it would make 725,000 acres of land in California’s central coast open to oil and gas lease sales, ending a five-year moratorium.

Trump administration disbanded marine life and health advisory boards

By Amanda Mills   10/03/19  
The White House is currently making moves to eliminate three federal advisory boards that deal with the protection of marine life. 

Trump breaks with tradition by tapping only a Republican for key energy panel

By Dino Grandoni   10/02/19  
President Trump finally chose a new Republican commissioner for a key panel of federal energy regulators. But he did so without naming a Democrat to go with him, setting off a potential battle with Senate Democrats over the…

Trump administration pushes for Arctic drilling by arguing ‘there is not a climate crisis’

The Trump administration, in its push for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, is arguing the project should go forward because "there is not a climate crisis."

Trump administration to move environmental review staff to states

The Interior Department is forcing key staff responsible for environmental reviews to move west as part of the Trump administration's efforts to shrink the number of federal workers based in Washington.

Statement of Administration Policy

The White House would veto any bills banning offshore drilling along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts

Making Dishwashers Great Again

New York Times: Of all the conservative efforts to persuade the Trump administration to weaken the nation’s environmental rules, the dishwasher lobby might be the most peculiar.“Dishwashers used to clean a full load of filthy…