EXECUTIVE

EXECUTIVE

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.

CURRENT NEWS

KEY RESOURCES

Inflation Reduction Act (IRA)

10/04/22
Enacting the historic Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is the most important step that the United States has taken to combat climate chaos since the passage of the Clean Air Act. The IRA has over $300…

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

05/16/21
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

10/09/20
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

01/27/20
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…

A running list of how President Trump is changing environmental policy

05/03/19
The Trump administration has promised vast changes to U.S. science and environmental policy—and we’re tracking them here as they happen.

95 Environmental Rules Being Rolled Back Under Trump

08/02/19
Over four years in office, the Trump administration has dismantled major climate policies and rolled back many more rules governing clean air, water, wildlife and toxic chemicals.

MORE NEWS

A climate change emergency.

By Isaac Saul  Photo: Li - An Lim , Unsplash   07/21/22  
A bipartisan group of Senators announced a deal to reform the Electoral Count Act of 1887, clarifying that the role of the vice president is symbolic, raising the threshold to object to results from states,…

Biden Stops Short of Declaring National Climate Emergency Takes Limited Executive Actions As 100 Million Americans Under Extreme Heat Alert

07/20/22  
“The world’s burning up from California to Croatia, and right now Biden’s fighting fire with the trickle from a garden hose,” said Jean Su, Energy Justice program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Saying…

Here’s what could happen if Biden declares a climate emergency

By Dino Grandoni and Others  Photo: Dawn Bottoms , Bloomberg News   07/20/22  
👀 On today's agenda: President Biden will travel to Somerset, Mass., to deliver remarks about tackling the climate crisis and boosting clean energy jobs, but he is not expected to issue an emergency declaration at…

The Curious Backstory of the ‘Climate Emergency’

By Bill Mckibben   07/20/22  
He should, of course—it’s hard to think of what else to call it when the UK, with the oldest temperature records on earth, smashes its old all-time heat mark by nearly 3 degrees Fahrenheit, as…

Biden eyes climate emergency declaration as Democrats demand swift action

By Tony Romm and Others  Photo: Bill O' Leary   07/19/22  
President Biden is considering whether to declare a national climate emergency in the coming weeks, as he seeks to salvage his stalled environmental agenda and satisfy Democrats on Capitol Hill, who demanded on Tuesday a…

Biden under pressure to declare climate emergency after Manchin torpedoes bill

By David Smith and Others  Photo: Thomas Lohnes , Getty Images   07/19/22  
Facing political gridlock in Washington, the president could make such an announcement – which would unlock federal resources to address the crisis – as soon as this week, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday.

What happens if Biden declares a climate emergency?

By Kelsey Brugger and Others  Photo: Chip Somodevilla , Getty Images   07/19/22  
Biden was considering making such an announcement as early as this week, The Washington Post reported last night, citing people familiar with the matter. Biden is slated to travel to Somerset, Mass., tomorrow to “deliver…

Trying to Salvage His Climate Agenda, Biden Weighs Remaining Options

By Lisa Friedman and Others  Photo: Haiyun Jiang , The New York Times   07/19/22  
President Biden will travel Wednesday to a shuttered coal-fired power plant that is now part of an offshore wind project in Massachusetts, where he is expected to deliver remarks on clean energy as his administration…

The U.S. plan to avoid extreme climate change is running out of time

By Chris Mooney and Others   07/18/22  
In 101 months, the United States will have achieved President Biden’s most important climate promise — or it will have fallen short. Right now it is seriously falling short, and for each month that passes,…

E.P.A. Describes How It Will Regulate Power Plants After Supreme Court Setback

By Lisa Friedman  Photo: Dane Rhys , Reuters   07/07/22  
“While the Court sided with special interests trying to take the country backwards, it did not take away E.P.A.’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases and protect people from pollution,” Gina McCarthy, the White House climate…

What Is the Clean Air Act?

By Coral Davenport  Photo: Melissa Lyttle   06/30/22  
The Clean Air Act, which some legal experts call the most powerful environmental law in the world, was enacted in 1970, at the birth of the environmental movement.

Biden administration holding its first onshore oil sales

By Matthew Brown  Photo: AP Photo/Matthew Brown   06/29/22  
The U.S. government this week is holding its first onshore oil and natural gas drilling lease auctions since President Joe Biden took office after a federal court blocked the administration’s attempt to suspend such sales…

Biden admin to hold first onshore drilling auctions in blow to climate agenda

By Reuters  Photo: Evelyn Hockstein   06/29/22  
The U.S. Interior Department this week will hold its first onshore oil and gas auctions since President Joe Biden took office, a setback to his administration's early efforts to end federal drilling to fight climate…

White House announces $700M in private investments for EV charging

By Erin Doherty  Photo: Justin Sullivan , Getty Images   06/28/22  
The Biden administration announced Tuesday that a number of companies are planning to invest more than $700 million to boost U.S. manufacturing capacity for electric vehicle charging.

Biden’s Inner Circle Debates Future of Offshore Drilling

By Lisa Friedman  Photo: Pete Marovich   06/24/22  
President Biden’s top aides are weighing whether to ban new oil and gas drilling off America’s coasts, a move that would elate climate activists but could leave the administration vulnerable to Republican accusations that it…

Biden team sees climate ‘emergency,’ but powers are limited

By Dino Grandoni  Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images   06/20/22  
With his climate legislation stalled and a Supreme Court case threatening his ability to regulate carbon, President Biden has been leaning more heavily than ever on his own authority to tackle climate change and address…

The Wrong People Are Making Our Energy Decisions

By David Blackmon  Photo: Getty Images   06/16/22  
This has been a week when a rift seemed to develop among global political leaders regarding the “incredible” energy transition agenda. It’s a rift that once again shows us that political elites who don’t have…

Now Is Biden’s Chance to Address the Source of Nearly 1/4 of All U.S. Carbon Emissions

By Earthjustice and Evergreen Action  Photo: David Mcnew / Getty Images   06/15/22  
President Biden can use his legal authority to transition the U.S. away from oil, gas, and coal by aligning the federal leasing program with his climate and environmental justice commitments...

Emissions From New U.S. Natural Gas Projects Will Equal 18 Million Cars

By Molly Taft  Photo: Andrew Caballero - Reynolds , AP   06/15/22  
Despite the Biden administration’s vows to fight climate change, the U.S. is currently embarking on a major effort to build out fossil fuel infrastructure following the war in Ukraine—with potentially disastrous climate results.

Fossil fuel leasing program undercuts Biden’s climate goals, report says

By Maxine Joselow  Photo: Matthew Brown/AP   06/15/22  
The federal fossil fuel leasing program is at odds with President Biden's commitments to tackling climate change and environmental injustices, according to a report shared exclusively with The Climate 202 before its public release...

DOE Announces $39 Million for Research and Development to Turn Buildings into Carbon Storage Structures

06/13/22  
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced $39 million in awards for 18 projects seeking to develop technologies that can transform buildings into net carbon storage structures. Led by DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy…

John Kerry says clean energy transition is the largest market the world has ever seen

By Catherene Clifford  Photo: Anna Moneymaker , Getty Images   06/09/22  
“This is the largest market the world has ever been staring at: the energy transition market,” said Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry on Thursday at the IV CEO Summit of the Americas.

Five Car Makers Back Biden Decision To Allow California’s Stricter Auto Emissions

By Evan Symon  Photo: Ron Ader , Shutterstock   06/09/22  
Earlier this week, Ford, Volkswagen, BMW, Honda and Volvo announced that they would be backing President Joe Biden’s decision to allow California to set their own stricter emissions standards for vehicles despite ongoing challengers from…

Oil and gas companies underreported methane leaks, new study shows

By Steven Mufson  Photo: Jordan Vonderhaar , Bloomberg News   06/08/22  
Big oil and gas companies have internal data showing that their methane emissions in the vast Permian Basin “are likely significantly higher than official data” reported to the Environmental Protection Agency, says a new report…

Biden to invoke Defense Production Act for clean energy

By Ben Geman and Andrew Freedman  Photo: Justin Merriman/Bloomberg via Getty Images   06/06/22  
President Biden will shield solar project developers from the costs of potential trade penalties and offer new federal support for domestic panel manufacturing, the White House said Monday.

FACT SHEET: President Biden Takes Bold Executive Action to Spur Domestic Clean Energy Manufacturing

06/06/22  
Today’s clean energy technologies are a critical part of the arsenal we must harness to lower energy costs for families, reduce risks to our power grid, and tackle the urgent crisis of a changing climate.…

USPTO announces launch of Climate Change Mitigation Pilot Program

06/03/22  
Under this pilot program, qualifying nonprovisional utility patent applications involving technologies that mitigate climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions will be advanced out of turn for examination (accorded special status) until a first action…

E.P.A., Reversing Trump, Will Restore States’ Power to Block Pipelines

By Lisa Friedman  Photo: Tim Gruber , The New York Times   06/02/22  
The Biden administration on Thursday will move to restore authority to states and tribes to veto gas pipelines, coal terminals and other energy projects if they would pollute local rivers and streams, reversing a Trump-era…

DOE launches grid interconnection initiative to cut ‘gridlock’ hampering clean energy progress

By Ethan Howland  Photo : Lovelyday12 , Getty Images   06/02/22  
In an effort to spur clean energy development, the U.S. Department of Energy is launching a program to improve the grid interconnection process through a partnership with utilities, grid operators, state and tribal governments, clean…

Undoing Trump, EPA to empower states and tribes to oppose pipelines

By Dino Grandoni  Photo : Orjan F. Ellingvag , Getty Images   06/02/22  
The Environmental Protection Agency announced on Thursday it would seek to return authority to states to oppose gas pipelines, coal terminals and other projects that pose a threat to lakes, rivers and streams — reversing…

How President Biden Can Align the Federal Fossil Fuel Program to Deliver on Climate and Put People Over Profits

By Mattea Mrkusic, Lena Moffitt and Others   06/01/22  
This report will focus on one of the dirtiest uses of America’s federal public lands and waters: fossil fuel development. The U.S. federal government sells leases to private companies which allow them to extract oil,…

Biden wants to rebuild the EPA. He doesn’t have the money to do it.

By Dino Grandoni  Photo: Louie Palu , The Washington Post   05/31/22  
The issue wasn’t chemical manufacturers holding back information. Instead, part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s computer system used to store sensitive data provided by companies went down — and the agency didn’t have the IT…

U.S. SEC unveils rules to ensure ESG funds follow through on investments

By Katanga Johnson & Ross Kerber  Photo: Andrew Kelly , Reuters   05/26/22  
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Wednesday proposed a pair of rule changes aimed at stamping out unfounded claims by funds on their environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) credentials, and enforcing more…

Biden Administration, Settling a Long Fight, Plans to Block a Mine in Alaska

By Coral Davenport  Photo: Acacia Johnson , New York Times   05/25/22  
The Biden administration on Wednesday took a major legal step toward protecting Bristol Bay in Alaska, one of the world’s most valuable sockeye salmon fisheries that also sits atop enormous copper and gold deposits long…

White House official promises regulatory review updates

By Kelsey Brugger  Photo: Chip Somodevilla , Getty Images   05/19/22  
Sam Berger — who recently joined the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs after serving on the White House pandemic response team — said the office is “putting regulatory modernization at the center of what…

85 House members add to Senate calls for an end to anti-circumvention solar investigation

By Lulia Gheorghiu  Photo: Megan Quinn , UtilityDive   05/19/22  
Some 85 U.S. House representatives wrote President Joe Biden on Tuesday asking him to expedite the anti-circumvention investigation into solar exports from Southeast Asia that has led to a number of delays and cancellations in…

DOE Announces $53 Million for Small Businesses Pursuing Clean Energy and Climate Solutions

05/18/22  
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced $53 million in funding awards for diverse small businesses to pursue advanced scientific instrumentation and technologies to address climate change. The funding will support 259 projects across…

SEC to consider sustainable investing rules

By Avery Ellfeldt  Photo: Andrew Harnik   05/18/22  
The Securities and Exchange Commission is set to vote next week on rules that would crack down on the Wild West that has become environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing.

DOE Updates Mobile Home Efficiency Standards to Lower Household Energy Bills

05/18/22  
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today adopted new energy standards for manufactured housing — commonly referred to as single-section and multi-section mobile homes — that will help consumers save hundreds of dollars on their…

Justice Dept. Tries to Shift Environmental Justice Efforts From Symbolic to Substantive

By Glenn Thrush and Lisa Friedman  Photo: Audra Melton , The New York Times   05/12/22  
The Biden administration’s choice of Lowndes as the site of its first big environmental justice inquiry was based on the magnitude of the county’s problems. But it also sent a message. The county was a…

EPA blocks bid to review basis for climate regs

By Kevin Bogardus  Photo: Patrick Semansky , AP Photo   05/12/22  
Last month, the agency denied petitions by conservative-leaning think tanks and attorneys to reconsider its endangerment finding on greenhouse gases, records show, marking the second time EPA has dismissed those claims. The agency first denied…

How Congress is routing climate policy through the Army Corps of Engineers

By Jake Bittle  Photo: Paul Flipse , Getty Images   05/12/22  
Even as President Biden’s signature climate change bill languishes in the Senate, Congress is poised to spend billions of dollars on ambitious new projects that would help the U.S. adapt to climate change. A bill…

Biden pulls 3 offshore oil lease sales, curbing new drilling this year

By Anna Phillips  Photo: Eric Gay , AP   05/12/22  
The Interior Department confirmed Wednesday that it will not hold three oil and gas lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Alaska that had been scheduled to take place, taking…

White House alarmed that Commerce probe is ‘smothering’ solar industry

By Evan Halper  Photo: Oliver Contreras/For The Washington Post   05/07/22  
Top climate officials in the Biden administration are warning that a federal investigation into alleged dodging of tariffs by Chinese suppliers has put the domestic solar industry in peril just as the United States is…

Energy Department announces oil buyback to replenish SPR

By Ben Lefebvre   05/05/22  
The actual purchases would be for deliveries after fiscal year 2023, in “future years when prices are anticipated to be significantly lower than they are today, and will represent a first tranche of purchases to…

Leader of Treasury’s Climate Hub touts ‘agitating’ role

By Avery Ellfeldt  Photo : Ben Hider , Getty Images   05/05/22  
John Morton was tapped last year to lead Treasury's first-ever "Climate Hub" as part of the administration's whole-of-government approach to climate change. A year later, the former Obama official and sustainable investing veteran says his…

Solar Industry ‘Frozen’ as Biden Administration Investigates China

By David Gelles  Photo: Kevin Frayer , Getty Images   04/29/22  
Around the country, solar companies are delaying projects, scrambling for supplies, shutting down construction sites and warning that tens of billions of dollars — and tens of thousands of jobs — are at risk.

Biden energy chief voices ‘deep concern’ about tariff impact on US solar goals

By Zack Budryk  Photo: Greg Nash   04/28/22  
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm on Thursday said she shares “deep concern” about the impact of potential solar energy tariffs on U.S. renewable energy goals.

Biden restores climate safeguards in key environmental law

By Dino Grandoni and Anna Phillips  Photo: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg News   04/19/22  
A final rule announced Tuesday by the White House will require agencies to assess the climate impact of roads, pipelines and other infrastructure.
EPA

EPA Releases New Memo Outlining Strategy to Equitably Deliver Clean Water Through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

03/08/22  
Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a memorandum to guide collaborative implementation with state, local, and Tribal partners of $43 billion in water infrastructure funding through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. President Biden, with…