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 could spur severe economic losses, Biden administration says

By Zoya Teirstein 03/22/23
Climate change is generating major economic problems in the United States, the Biden administration said in an annual report published this week. The assumptions that higher-income countries like the U.S. would safely weather the risks…
Read more

Biden will approve Alaska oil project, alongside Arctic protections

By Maxine Joselow and Timothy Puko 03/12/23
The administration will approve three pads for the Willow drilling project, according to people familiar with the matter. The move comes after announcing a new ban on U.S. oil and gas leasing in the Arctic…
Read more

EPA Announces Most Energy-Efficient Manufacturing Plants of 2022

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is announcing that 86 U.S. manufacturing plants earned the agency’s ENERGY STAR certification in 2022, a designation reserved for manufacturing plants in the top 25% of energy efficiency…
Read more

U.S. Eyes Trade Deals With Allies to Ease Clash Over Electric Car Subsidies

By Alan Rappeport 02/24/23
The Biden administration hopes to reach limited free trade agreements with countries in Europe and Asia that would not require congressional approval as it looks to ease allies’ concerns about legislation that President Biden signed…
Read more

State of the Union: How climate and energy have featured since 1989

By Rosamund Pearce 02/07/23
Climate change hit the mainstream in the US after NASA scientist James Hansen told Congress in 1988 that the world was warmer and mankind was to blame.
Read more

Biden bans logging roads in much of America’s largest national forest

By Timothy Puko 01/25/23
The Biden administration on Wednesday restored protections for more than half of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, safeguarding one of the world’s largest intact temperate rainforests from new roads and logging.
Read more

White House Aims to Reflect the Environment in Economic Data

By Lydia DePillis 01/20/23
The Biden administration has set out to measure the economic value of ecosystems, offering new statistics to weigh in policy decisions....
Read more

Department of Energy Announces $200 Million for Energy Earthshot Research Centers in support of the Energy Earthshots™

Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $200 million for Energy Earthshot Research Centers (EERCs). This funding, provided by the Office of Science, will support fundamental research to accelerate breakthroughs in support of the…
Read more

Biden administration to electrify buildings and clean up indoor air quality

By Lloyd Alter 12/12/22
The White House announced that new and renovated federal buildings are getting off gas, with the intent to electrify 30% of all federal buildings by 2030. "As the country’s single largest energy consumer and building…
Read more

U.S. and China Restart Climate Talks

By Jim Tankersley and Lisa Friedman 11/14/22
President Biden and President Xi Jinping of China agreed on Monday to restart talks between their countries as part of international climate negotiations, a breakthrough in the effort to avert catastrophic global warming.
Read more

Biden Administration Proposes That Federal Contractors Must Disclose GHG Emissions

By Jacob Hupart 11/14/22
Last Thursday, the Biden Administration proposed that all federal contractors (except those receiving less than $7.5 million annually in contracts) be required to, among other things, disclose their GHG emissions. Specifically, according to the press…
Read more

Proposed rule requires federal contractors to report, reduce climate emissons

By Alex Guillen 11/10/22
The Biden administration on Thursday proposed a regulation that would require most federal contractors to publicly disclose their greenhouse gas emissions — and would require over a thousand companies to set their own emissions reductions…
Read more


Inflation Reduction Act (IRA)

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

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…

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.

95 Environmental Rules Being Rolled Back Under Trump

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.


EPA blocks bid to review basis for climate regs

By Kevin Bogardus   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…
Read more

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

By Jake Bittle   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…
Read more

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

By Anna Phillips   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…
Read more

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

By Evan Halper   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…
Read more

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…
Read more

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

By Avery Ellfeldt   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…
Read more

Solar Industry ‘Frozen’ as Biden Administration Investigates China

By David Gelles   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.
Read more

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

By Zack Budryk   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.
Read more

Biden administration launches $6 billion nuclear plant bailout

By Evan Halper   04/20/22  
The Biden administration moved Tuesday to revive America’s troubled nuclear power industry with $6 billion in spending aimed at keeping open financially strapped plants.
Read more

Biden restores climate safeguards in key environmental law

By Dino Grandoni and Anna Phillips   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.
Read more

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

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…
Read more

Biden Administration Sets Interim Greenhouse Pollution Cost Estimates

By Nexus Media   03/01/22  
The Biden administration announced it will use Obama-era calculations of the “social cost” of three greenhouse gas pollutants while an interagency working group calculates a more complete estimate, the White House announced Friday. Often described…
Read more

Interim Social Cost Of GHGs Halted By Judge

By Nexus Media   02/14/22  
A federal judge barred the Biden administration from using its interim revised social costs of greenhouse gas pollution in crafting regulatory policy on Friday. The ruling by Trump-appointee James Cain in a federal court in…
Read more

A Year of Accomplishments at EPA

In the first year of the Biden-Harris Administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency took significant steps forward in tackling the climate crisis, advancing environmental justice, protecting the health and safety of communities across the country,…
Read more

A Year of Accomplishments at EPA

By Michael Regan   01/20/22  
One year ago today, President Biden took office and launched the most ambitious environmental agenda in our nation’s history. From restoring scientific integrity, to confronting climate change, to advancing environmental justice, the EPA team has…
Read more

Biden Orders Federal Vehicles and Buildings to Use Renewable Energy by 2050

By Lisa Friedman   12/30/21  
President Biden on Wednesday set in motion a plan to make the federal government carbon neutral, ordering federal agencies to buy electric vehicles, to power facilities with wind, solar and nuclear energy, and to use…
Read more

Biden authorizes use of strategic oil reserves to combat high U.S. gasoline prices

By Jeff Stein and others   11/23/21  
President Biden on Tuesday said he was releasing some U.S. oil reserves, part of a multilateral effort the White House is leading to reduce global prices.
Read more

Trump’s move of Bureau of Land Management HQ undercut diversity, watchdog finds

By Joshua Partlow   11/18/21  
As Trump officials were moving the headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management from Washington, D.C., to Colorado two years ago, Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, issued a…
Read more

Biden unveils new rules to curb methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from oil and gas operations

By Dino Grandoni and Others   11/02/21  
More than 100 countries have signed the Global Methane Pledge, which requires a 30 percent cut in methane emissions by 2030, one of the Biden administration’s priorities for the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland.…
Read more

White House proposes restoring key parts of landmark environmental law, reversing Trump

By Maxine Joselow   10/06/21  
The White House proposed restoring parts of one of the nation’s bedrock environmental laws Wednesday, requiring agencies to conduct a climate analysis of major projects and give affected communities greater input into the process.
Read more

How John Kerry Hopes To Combat Climate Change

By Audie Cornish   08/11/21  
This week's U.N. climate report concludes that a certain amount of damage to the planet is now irreversible, that even the most dramatic cuts to carbon emissions can only maybe prevent the worst predicted effects…
Read more

In victory for Biden, U.S. Senate OKs $1.2T bipartisan infrastructure bill

By Jacob Fischler   08/10/21  
North Carolina’s Tillis and Burr defy Trump by helping to craft compromise legislation The U.S. Senate passed 69-30 on Tuesday a sweeping bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure package, a milestone for one of President Joe Biden’s…
Read more

John Kerry says Donald Trump destroyed the U.S.’s credibility on climate change

Special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry explained in an interview that former President Donald Trump’s actions caused other countries to be wary of trusting America on climate change.
Read more

After Trump, US researchers urge Biden to block political meddling in science

By Nidhi Subbaraman   08/04/21  
US researchers and science groups appealed to President Joe Biden’s administration last week to protect government science from political interference and to empower federal scientists to speak to the media and public. They made this…
Read more

The Easy Climate-Change Win that Rashida Tlaib Backs But Joe Biden Fails to Seize

By Julia Rock   08/02/21  
The Biden administration has signaled its commitment to tackling the financial risks posed by climate change through executive orders and key appointments. But advocates say the president is missing an easy opportunity for big climate…
Read more

The Biden Administration’s Embrace of Environmental Justice Has Made Wary Activists Willing to Believe

By Agya K. Aning   08/01/21  
Decades after emerging from the broader civil rights movement, setting itself apart from traditional environmentalism, flourishing in academia and wending through public discourse, the environmental justice movement has now achieved unprecedented prominence as activists work…
Read more

Proposals to Reduce Fossil Fuel Subsidies (2021)

By Savannah Bertrand   07/23/21  
U.S. direct subsidies to the fossil fuel industry are estimated at roughly $20.5 billion per year, including $14.7 billion from federal subsidies and $5.8 billion from state subsidies. When externalities such as health, environmental, and…
Read more

Biden Wants To Take On The Fossil-Fuel Industry. Dozens Of His Officials Are Invested In It

By Michela Tindera   05/11/21  
On the campaign trail, Joe Biden tried to distance himself from oil, gas and coal companies, pledging not to accept money from fossil-fuel firms. Dozens of those now serving in his administration, however, were less rigid about separating themselves from energy…
Read more

Biden’s executive orders on climate have broad public support

By Gary Yohe , Henry Jacoby , Richard Richels and Benjamin Santer   03/08/21  
Governing from the White House by executive actions – whether by executive orders or variations thereon – has its pluses and minuses.
Read more

Biden Meets Virtually With Canada’s Trudeau on Climate Change, Covid-19, Economic Recovery

By Gordon Lubold and Paul Vieira   02/23/21  
Meeting marked Biden’s first one-on-one encounter as U.S. president with another world leader
Read more

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…
Read more

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

By Alexander C. Kaufman   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…
Read more

The Battle Takes Shape

By Coral Davenport and Lisa Friedman   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.
Read more

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 and waters, as his administration moves quickly to reverse Trump administration policies on energy and the…
Read more

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…
Read more

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

By Alexander C. Kaufman and Chris D’Angelo   01/26/21  
On Wednesday, President Joe Biden is set to temporarily suspend all new oil and gas leasing on federal lands pending an administrative review, part of an early blitz of executive orders seeking to undo former…
Read more

Climate Change Once Again Appears On White House Websitep

By Mary Papenfuss   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…
Read more

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.
Read more

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.…
Read more

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

By Troy Farah   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.
Read more

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

By Lisa Friedman and Christopher Flavelle   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.
Read more

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.
Read more

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

By Andrea Thompson   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…
Read more

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

By William J. Broad   01/05/21  
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…
Read more

With Biden, The Whole Climate Will Change

Ken Silverstein   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…
Read more

5 Environmental Stories That Could Dominate In 2021

By Laura Paddison   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.
Read more

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.
Read more

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.
Read more

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…
Read more

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

By Chris D'Angelo   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…
Read more