President Biden’s 100 Day Climate Progress Report
by Charlie Jiang
April 28, 2021
Has President Biden met the bar for real climate leadership in his first 100 days? We graded the Administration’s progress toward phasing out fossil fuels and enacting a Green New Deal, based on our #Climate2020 Scorecard.
Numerical metrics are based on the following “progress bar” that represents steps toward full implementation, with weightings derived from the #Climate2020 Scorecard.
Phasing Out Fossil Fuels
1. Lead a Managed Fossil Fuel Phase Out
Has President Biden initiated a managed phase out of domestic fossil fuel production, both federal and non-federal, before 2050?
The U.S. must phase out fossil fuel production as quickly as possible to meet global climate targets. During the campaign, Joe Biden offered some rhetoric in support of a phase out of fossil fuel production. Kamala Harris went even further, proposing an international agreement to address fossil fuel production. However, so far the Biden-Harris Administration has not implemented policies to phase out fossil fuel production.
2. Protect Workers & Communities
Has President Biden enacted policies to support workers and communities that are economically dependent on the fossil fuel industry during the transition to a 100% renewable energy future, ensuring that nobody is left behind?
President Biden’s January 27th Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad identifies the need for federal leadership to “foster economic revitalization of and investment in” energy communities. The EO mentions the importance of creating jobs reducing emissions from abandoned wells and mines, and creates an Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization. The Working Group has presented an initial report, but no policies have been implemented yet. President Biden’s proposed American Jobs Plan (AJP) also contains proposals to support workforce development, invest $16 billion to create union jobs cleaning up abandoned oil and gas wells and coal, hardrock, and uranium mines, and create a Community Revitalization Fund. Enacting the AJP and/or implementing specific provisions of the Climate EO will move the progress bar closer to completion.
3. End Fossil Fuel Leasing
Has President Biden ended new fossil fuel leasing on public lands and waters?
President Biden’s Climate EO implemented a temporary pause on “new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or in offshore waters pending completion of a comprehensive review.” This leasing moratorium does not cover coal leasing and may not be made permanent following the Interior Department’s review. Full credit would be awarded for a permanent and comprehensive halt to coal, oil, and gas production on federal lands and waters.
4. End Fossil Fuel Subsidies
Has President Biden eliminated federal fossil fuel subsidies?
The Biden-Harris Administration has supported ending some fossil fuel subsidies. President Biden’s Climate EO instructs the government to “take steps to ensure that, to the extent consistent with applicable law, Federal funding is not directly subsidizing fossil fuels.” However, his Made in America Tax Plan would only remove $35 billion in subsidies over the next decade, far less than the estimated $150 billion in U.S. federal fossil fuel subsidies identified in the End Polluter Welfare Act. On April 22, 2021, President Biden instructed agencies to “seek to end international investments in and support for carbon-intensive fossil fuel-based energy projects,” although it remains unclear how comprehensive or effective these policies will be.
5. Ban Fossil Fuel Exports
Has President Biden banned exports of crude oil, coal, and liquified natural gas (LNG)?
The Biden-Harris Administration has not taken any action so far to halt crude oil, coal, or liquified natural gas exports, as a new coalition of climate, environmental justice, and public health groups are demanding.
6. Implement a Climate Test for Fossil Fuel Infrastructure
Has President Biden denied all federal permits for fossil fuel projects that would increase climate pollution?
President Biden revoked the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, but has not yet taken further action to halt federal permits for fossil fuel and other infrastructure permits that would exacerbate the climate crisis. His Climate EO aims to “ensure that Federal infrastructure investment reduces climate pollution, and to require that Federal permitting decisions consider the effects of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change,” but it is unclear exactly what this will mean in practice. President Biden’s “Executive Order on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis” also mandates that agencies “capture the full costs of greenhouse gas emissions as accurately as possible” by using the social cost of carbon (SCC), which could be one step toward fully accounting for the climate costs of polluting infrastructure.
7. Hold Polluters Accountable
Has President Biden held fossil fuel polluters accountable for the costs of climate disaster?
Justification: President Biden’s Climate EO states, “We must hold polluters accountable for their actions,” but to date the Biden-Harris Administration has not taken concrete action to do so.
8. Respect Indigenous Sovereignty
Has President Biden upheld Indigenous peoples’ rights to self-determination, free, prior, and informed consent (e.g., for fossil fuel projects on Indigenous territories), and other rights as laid out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples?
President Biden released a “Memorandum on Tribal Consultation and Strengthening Nation-to-Nation Relationships” that mandates each agency develop a plan for nation-to-nation consultation. This Memo mostly returns Federal practices with respect to Tribes to Obama-era precedents, and does not institute Free, Prior, and Informed Consent. President Biden has not spoken publicly about supporting the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
9. Advance Environmental Justice
Has President Biden combatted the racial, economic, and environmental injustices that have led working families and people of color to bear the brunt of fossil fuel and toxic pollution, and worked to foster healthy, sustainable, and regenerative communities?
President Biden’s Climate EO mandates the creation of a White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council, which is charged with developing a “strategy to address current and historic environmental injustice.” The EO also tasks the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) with creating an equity mapping tool, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) with tightening enforcement of violations with disproportionate impact, and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) with developing a focus on health equity. The EO also kicked off the Administration’s “Justice40 Initiative,” with a goal of “delivering 40 percent of the overall benefits of relevant federal investments to disadvantaged communities.”
10. Appoint a Fossil Fuel Free Administration
Has President Biden nominated, appointed, and hired Administration officials free from the influence of fossil fuel corporations, executives, and lobbyists?
President Biden appointed a Cabinet free from overt fossil fuel influence and implemented a White House Ethics Pledge with strong revolving door provisions. Despite these pledges, however, there do remain members of the Administration with significant financial investments and career ties to fossil fuel corporations.
Advancing a Green New Deal
1. Support a Green New Deal
Has President Biden supported the Green New Deal (GND), as proposed by Sen. Markey and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, or the THRIVE Agenda, which calls for a GND-style economic recovery?
President Biden has not publicly supported nor enacted the GND Resolution or THRIVE Agenda. However, President Biden’s proposed American Jobs Plan (AJP) and some of his public statements do capture the spirit of the original GND. The GND marked a turning point in the U.S. climate policy debate, bringing a much greater focus on a holistic approach to devote trillions in public investments to create millions of good-paying, union jobs, tackle the climate crisis, and address historical environmental, racial, and economic injustices. The AJP marks a step forward in making this vision a reality.
2. Commit to Near-Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions Before 2050
Has President Biden required near-zero U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions earlier than 2050?
President Biden’s Climate EO notes the promise of solutions to “put the United States on a path to achieve net-zero emissions, economy-wide, by no later than 2050,” but stops short of formally pledging this as a target. On April 22, 2021, President Biden announced a new nationally determined contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement that affirms the Administration’s goal of “reaching net zero emissions economy-wide by no later than 2050.”
3. Rejoin the Paris Agreement
Has President Biden supported the U.S. remaining a party to the Paris Agreement?
4. Advance Climate Resilience
Has President Biden taken action to protect communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis, help them recover from climate disasters, and build climate resilience?
President Biden’s Climate EO acknowledges the central importance of climate resiliency in government policy, and includes building climate resilience as a goal in his mandates on climate finance, the Civilian Climate Corps, agency Climate Action Plans, and the creation of the National Climate Task Force. Similarly, President Biden’s proposed American Jobs Plan includes funding for ARPA-C to advance R&D into climate resilience, and includes resilience as a general goal in its housing, transportation, and other infrastructure spending proposals.
5. Strengthen Worker Protections and the Right to Organize
Has President Biden taken steps to ensure a family-sustaining wage for all, provide strong labor protections for workers in the clean energy future, and strengthen the rights of workers to bargain?
President Biden has publicly endorsed the PRO Act, which passed the House of Representatives but has not yet been voted on in the Senate. President Biden’s Climate EO calls for establishing federal procurement standards that “apply and enforce the Davis-Bacon Act and prevailing wage and benefit requirements” and Made in America Laws. The American Jobs Plan calls for the creation of “new, good-quality union jobs for American workers by leveraging their grit and ingenuity to address the climate crisis and build a sustainable infrastructure.”
6. Achieve 100% Renewable Electricity by 2035
Has President Biden enacted policies to achieve 100% renewable electricity by 2035 or sooner?
President Biden’s Climate EO calls for a “carbon pollution-free electricity sector no later than 2035” — which notably could include carbon capture and storage (CCS) and nuclear. His American Jobs Plan proposes $100 billion in investment to make it happen. The EO also calls for using federal funding and procurement power to expand clean electricity. It is expected that Interior will issue plans to increase renewable energy deployment on federal lands, and that EPA will issue new regulations to reduce power sector emissions.
7. Eliminate Fossil Fuel Vehicle Sales by 2040
Has President Biden enacted policies to decarbonize the transportation sector, including phasing out internal combustion engine vehicle sales by 2040 or sooner?
President Biden’s Climate EO aims to use federal procurement to achieve or facilitate “clean and zero-emission vehicles for Federal, State, local, and Tribal government fleets, including vehicles of the United States Postal Service.” His American Jobs Plan (AJP) proposes to create jobs through a $174 billion investment to grow the electric vehicle market in the U.S., including by creating a “national network of 500,000 EV chargers by 2030” and electrifying at least 20 percent of the school bus network. The AJP would also invest in rail and public transit. It is expected that EPA will also introduce stronger emissions and fuel economy standards for vehicles, but details have not been released. Unlike for the power sector, however, President Biden has not yet committed to a transportation sector-wide emissions target.
8. Eliminate Buildings Sector Emissions
Has President Biden enacted policies to decarbonize the buildings sector?
President Biden’s Climate EO calls for federal agencies to “use the power of procurement to increase the energy and water efficiency of United States Government installations, buildings, and facilities and ensure they are climate-ready.” His American Jobs Plan proposes $213 billion to “build, preserve, and retrofit more than two million homes and commercial buildings” and proposes investments in “cutting-edge, energy-efficient and electrified, resilient, and innovative school buildings.” Unlike for the power sector, President Biden has not yet committed to a buildings sector-wide emissions target.
9. Reduce Industrial Sector Emissions
Has President Biden enacted policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the industrial sector?
President Biden’s proposed American Jobs Plan (AJP) includes some initiatives to spur industrial decarbonization, although it also expands flawed policies such as the 45Q tax credit. The AJP proposes “15 decarbonized hydrogen demonstration projects in distressed communities” and “ten pioneer facilities that demonstrate carbon capture retrofits for large steel, cement, and chemical production facilities” (with a mention of guarding against cumulative pollution in those communities). The AJP also incorporates the SCALE Act; proposes $16 billion for orphan well remediation to reduce methane leakage, and clean up abandoned mines; and calls for $35 billion for R&D investment to “position America as the global leader in clean energy technology and clean energy jobs.” Unlike for the power sector, President Biden has not yet committed to an industrial sector-wide emissions target.
10. Reduce Agricultural Sector Emissions
Has President Biden enacted policies to reduce agricultural sector emissions and promote ecological farming and food systems?
President Biden’s Climate EO calls for a number of initiatives to advance conservation, agriculture, and reforestation, including a Civilian Conservation Corps and a report on meeting the goal of “conserving at least 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030.” The EO notes that “America’s farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners have an important role to play in combating the climate crisis and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, by sequestering carbon in soils, grasses, trees, and other vegetation and sourcing sustainable bioproducts and fuels.” However, we’re still waiting for President Biden to say no to all “false solutions,” which include biogas, carbon capture, carbon offsets, counter-productive carbon pricing systems such as carbon banks, and biofuels including biomass. President Biden’s American Jobs Plan also proposes funding with the goal to “Maximize the resilience of land and water resources to protect communities and the environment.” President Biden has a lot of good words, but specifics matter. The Biden-Harris Administration needs to do more.
11. Elevate Frontline Leadership in Policymaking
Has President Biden elevated frontline communities’ leadership to the highest levels of government?
President Biden’s Climate EO establishes a “White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council” to advise the federal government on a range of issues related to climate, conservation, and environmental justice.