Biden’s Approach to the Climate Crisis, Explained

Only a week since his inauguration, President Joe Biden has already begun actively combatting the climate crisis in the United States. 

“Folks, we’re in a crisis,” Biden said during a Jan. 19 press conference announcing federal environmental advisers. “Just like we need a unified national response to COVID-19, we need a unified national response to climate change. We need to meet this moment with the urgency it demands.”

After former President Donald Trump “weakened or wiped out more than 125 rules and policies aimed at protecting the nation’s air, water and land,” according to the Washington Post, Biden has begun reinstating many of the old policies and rules, and is beginning to develop his own.


First Day Action

During his first day in office on Jan. 20, Biden rejoined the Paris Agreement that Trump abandoned in 2017 — less than a year after the agreement went into effect on Nov. 4, 2016. This agreement is a “legally binding international treaty on climate change,” according to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and 196 countries have signed it. 

“President Trump made the decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement because of the unfair economic burden imposed on American workers, businesses, and taxpayers by U.S. pledges made under the Agreement,” former Secretary of State Micheal R. Pompeo said in a press release

Through government restrictions and financial assistance, the goal of this agreement is to “limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius” compared to pre-industrial levels, according to the UNFCCC.

Members of the Paris Agreement once again, Biden has committed to lowering the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions to help limit global warming.

During his first day in office, Biden also canceled the Keystone XL oil pipeline permit.

The pipeline would reach from Alberta, Canada to Nebraska, where it would meet up with an existing pipeline. It is a project that Indigenous groups and environmentalists have been fighting against for years, according to BBC.

The government originally put a halt to the pipeline under the Obama administration, and the Trump administration overturned that decision in 2019.


Restoring Utah National Monuments

In addition to his other first-day actions, Biden began the process of possibly restoring two Utah national monuments to their original size after Trump shrunk them substantially in 2017.

By shrinking Bears Ear National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Trump opened the doors for new gas and oil leasing, as well as less strict drilling regulations. This decision also “[rolled] back habitat protections for endangered species,” National Geographic reported.

“Some people think that the natural resources should be controlled by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in Washington. And guess what: They’re wrong,” Trump said during his announcement of this reduction.

As a first step to possible restoration, Biden has called for a review of the boundaries of the two national monuments. This includes working closely with numerous Native American tribes.

“The tribal leadership is very excited about working with the Biden administration, and we hope to resume a more normal kind of federal trust relationship in which we really emphasize government-to-government relationships,” Patrick Gonzales-Rogers, executive director of the Bears Ears Inter-tribal Coalition, shared with the Salt Lake Tribune.

While Biden is currently simply reviewing Trump’s decision to shrink the boundaries of the Utah national monuments, a decision to completely restore them to their original size could come in the future.


Biden’s Climate Team

A large part of Biden’s approach to combating the climate crisis is in the team of advisors he has selected. They will be making decisions about and consulting him on environmental issues that arise throughout his presidency.

For Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Biden has nominated Micheal S. Regan, who is the secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. Among other environmental-related positions, Regan previously worked with the EPA under both the Clinton and Bush administrations. 

“We will be driven by our convictions that every person in our great country has the right to clean air, clean water and a healthier life, no matter how much money they have in their pockets, the color of their skin or the community that they live in,” Regan said after his nomination on Jan. 16.

John Kerry, who served as secretary of state and signed the Paris Agreement for the United States under the Obama administration, has been nominated for a new position as special envoy of climate. Serving in this position, he will sit on the National Security Council. 

Kerry’s position is “perhaps the most senior climate job in US history,” according to the Independent. 

Biden also nominated Gina McCarthy, former EPA administrator, as climate coordinator, and Brenda Mallory, an environmental law expert, as environmental quality chair. 

Beyond these environment-specific positions, many other of Biden’s cabinet members will have an effect on his approach to the climate crisis. Numerous other nominees have expressed support for creating laws intended to protect the environment.  

Namely, treasury secretary nominee Janet Yellen, transportation secretary nominee Pete Buttigieg and National Economic Council director Brian Deese have all also called for deeper cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, the Independent reported.


Other Plans

While on the campaign trail, Biden made a series of other climate-related promises.

According to his campaign website, Biden plans to invest $1.7 trillion of federal money over the next ten years to support climate and environmental justice. 

He also promised to put a plan in place that will achieve a 100% clean air economy by 2050. This includes milestone targets by the end of his first term in 2025.

“Getting to a 100% clean energy economy is not only an obligation, it’s an opportunity. We should fully adopt a clean energy future, not just for all of us today, but for our children and grandchildren, so their tomorrow is healthier, safer, and more just,” Biden’s website states.

Biden also supports using the Green New Deal as a framework for addressing the climate crisis. The Green New Deal is a plan for reducing carbon emissions in the United States and creating more jobs within the environmental industry. It also condemns environmental racism and calls for the government to ensure clean air and water as human rights, the New York Times reported. 

Biden’s approach to the climate crisis comes in stark contrast to the approach during the Trump administration, which, according to the Washington Post, did not directly address climate issues and instead repealed numerous laws put in place to protect the environment.

When wildfires became a serious problem in California during the summer of 2020, Trump went so far as to claim that he doesn’t think “science knows, actually” about the effects of climate change on the United States during a briefing with California state and federal officials.

More information about Biden’s plans for combatting the climate crisis can be found on his campaign website


Story by: Lainey Cartwright
Photo by: Markus Spiske on