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Biden's Early Actions On Climate Change Get Us 'Back To Square One,' Activist Says05:52
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Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks about climate change and the wildfires on the West Coast at the Delaware Museum of Natural History on Sept. 14, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks about climate change and the wildfires on the West Coast at the Delaware Museum of Natural History on Sept. 14, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Some of President Biden's first actions in office focused on undoing his predecessor's legacy on climate change, and now Biden is expected to start building his own environmental policy with a suite of executive orders.

Those directives will reportedly include a moratorium on new oil and gas leases on federal land, which is expected to meet strong resistance from Republicans and fossil fuel interests.

Varshini Prakash, co-founder and executive director of the Sunrise Movement, a climate advocacy group, says Biden’s early actions on climate change are a good start. Her group is also applauding Biden on his appointments of Debra Haaland to lead the Interior Department and Gina McCarthy to head a new White House Office of Climate Policy.

“The challenge of the climate crisis is that most of what he has done so far in his first week essentially just gets us back to square one,” she says. “We've got to go much faster, much further if we want to prevent catastrophic harm.”

While Biden is expected to stop new oil and gas leases on federal land, the order will not apply to existing leases, nor does it include coal leasing on federal land. Prakash calls the pending move a “significant step,” but says there’s a lot more Biden needs to do.

Prakash and other climate activists are calling on the president to set renewable energy standards across the entire economy, as well as start implementing key planks of his Build Back Better plan designed to reboot the economy through green jobs.

Under that plan, Biden would seek to “employ potentially millions upon millions of people doing the essential work of averting climate catastrophe,” Prakash says.

Biden may also direct the Federal Emergency Management Agency to spend as much as $10 billion to protect against climate disasters in advance, according to The New York Times.

“The fact that we knew about the crisis essentially 50 years ago and have failed to do something considerable at the federal level, it means that we have a lot of catch up to do,” Prakash says. “And so supporting communities to adapt and to prepare for disaster right now is as essential as ensuring that we are decarbonizing our economy to prevent future damage.”


Chris Bentley produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Tinku Ray. Samantha Raphelson adapted it for the web. 

This segment aired on January 26, 2021.

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