Biden doubles down on climate change aid promises


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Eleanor Hildebrandt | September 22, 2021

U.S. President Joe Biden vowed to double aid aimed at helping lower income countries address climate change at a United Nations General Assembly meeting on Tuesday.

Previously, Biden pledged $5.7 billion to these countries. This pledged funding, and any additional money, will have to receive congressional approval, according to The New York Times. This new pledge would ask congress to approve more than $11 million.

Smaller countries have recently pointed out that countries with bigger economies have not delivered the billions in aid they’re promised through the United Nation and its agreements. In 2015, when the Paris climate accord was initially signed, more than $100 billion in annual aid was promised to less developed countries. Most of this aid has not been given by larger countries, including the U.S.

If the funding is passed, it would make the U.S. one of the largest climate donors in the world. Some environmental advocacy groups, however, don’t think Biden’s vow is enough funding.

Climate change is one of the most important subjects at the 2021 General Assembly meeting, garnering attention from several UN members. Biden’s initial pledge was made in April. Both funding goals have a deadline of 2024.

Biden aims to raise solar energy production from 4 to 45%


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Elizabeth Miglin | September 8, 2021

The Biden administration announced plans to produce half of the nation’s electricity through solar power by 2050, on Wednesday. 

Last year, solar energy provided less than 4 percent of the country’s electricity, now the administration aims to raise production to 45 percent. A new report by the Department of Energy argues the U.S. must quadruple annual solar installations by 2025 in order to reach the administrations’ goal of decarbonizing the power sector. 

Pressure to expedite the transition off of fossil fuels has increased due to recent natural disasters across the country, including Hurricane Ida in New Jeresy and New York, which have highlighted weaknesses in the current energy system. 

With the cost of solar panels dropping over the last decade, solar has become one of the cheapest sources of energy for much of the U.S. The reduced costs has boosted the solar and wind energy market where growth has exceeded government and independent analysts predictions. In culmination, a U.S. Energy Information Administration report projects renewable energy sources will share 42% of the U.S. electricity mix by 2050 at our current growth rate. 

Additionally, the administration hopes to reduce net emission from the power sector to zero by 2035, add hundreds of offshore wind turbines and ensure half of all new cars sold are electric by 2030. 

Oil, gas leasing to restart in United States


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Eleanor Hildebrandt | August 26, 2021

The temporary halt of onshore and offshore gas and oil development created by the Biden administration could see a restart in coming weeks.

The Interior Department is planning to make significant steps to begin leasing opportunities again, a court filing said on Tuesday. The decision comes after U.S. District Court Judge Terry Doughty ordered the pause to end in June 2021. The pause started when President Joe Biden began a halt at the very beginning of his time in office. The case Doughty ruled on had a few Republican state attorneys general as plaintiffs. The group, led by Louisiana’s Attorney General Jeff Landry, complained to the district court judge that the Biden administration and federal government were not moving fast enough to comply with the order.

In response to the plaintiffs’ concerns, the Interior Department said it would take “the programs’ documented deficiencies” into account, according to Iowa Capital Dispatch. The department is also expected to announce recommendations for how reform of the programs can meet the Biden administration’s climate change goals.

NPR called the original executive order that halted leasing to slow down the United States’ contribution to climate change “much-anticipated.” The move began as one of many efforts to address the worsening climate issues. During press conferences regarding the executive action, Biden reiterated that he does not plan to ban fracking during his presidency.

The Senate passes a major infrastructure bill, turning focus to anti-poverty and climate plans


Elizabeth Miglin | August 11, 2021

The U.S. Senate, on Tuesday, passed a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill which would provide funding for climate related infrastructure resiliency if passed by the House.  

After previous weeks of intense debate over one of the largest federal investments into the nation’s outdated public works system, the Senate voted 69 in favor with 30 opposed to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The legislation has the possibility of impacting nearly every aspect of the American economy with projects ensuring rural access to broadband and clean drinking water, modernizing roadways and environmental sustainability projects, according to the New York Times. Regarding the climate, the bill focuses on investmenting in clean energy, environmental clean-up projects and making infrastructure more resilient, according to The White House

Alongside the infrastructure bill, Senate Democrats agreed to an outline of an $3.5 trillion antipoverty and climate plan, on Monday. The climate legislation aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, fund research focused on climate change’s effect on agriculture, create a Civilian Climate Corps to enact climate-based public works projects and improve the durability of coastlines. Funding for both the antipoverty and the climate plan are expected to come from tax increases on wealthy individuals and corporations.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is expected to be debate by the House at the end of August, with the antipoverty and climate plan expected to be passed by the Senate by the end of this week.

Biden pushes to expand electric vehicles market


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Eleanor Hildebrandt | August 6, 2021

President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Thursday that aims to make half of all new vehicles sold in 2030 electric.

The administration has been looking at ways to decrease the United States greenhouse gas emissions since her entered office in January. The executive order is part of the administration’s goals to fight climate change. Alongside increasing the amount of electric vehicles on the road, Biden announced a proposal for new vehicle emission standards with increased stringency beginning in the 2023 model year.

While the executive order’s target is not legally binding, Reuters reported that Chrysler parent Stellantis NV, Ford Motors, and General Motors are planning to achieve 40 or 50% sales on electric vehicles by 2030.

Other brands intend to move to only electric vehicles by the 2030 deadline, like Volvo. According to CNBC, other companies, like General Motors, are aspiring to similar goals in the next 20 years.

During the Obama administration, a previous goal was set regarding the number of electric vehicles to be sold by 2015. The goal of 1 million vehicles fell short with only 400,000 sold.

Some elected officials from Iowa are asking Biden to consider prioritizing biofuels instead of electric vehicles. Senator Joni Ernst tweeted that corn ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 50%. The Biden administration has not responded to any biofuels inquiries since the executive order’s announcement.

Judge orders halt of Biden’s executive order pause on new gas, oil leases


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Eleanor Hildebrandt | June 18, 2021

A federal judge ruled that the Biden administration must restart regular sales of oil and gas leases.

The order forces the administration to abandon a central piece of its environmental agenda. President Joe Biden signed an executive order in January that temporarily paused new oil and gas leases on public lands to give time to the administration to review leasing policies. The reviews intended to better understand the leases’ contributions to climate change. The executive order was a return to Obama-era policies.

In the ruling issued by U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty, he granted a request by Jeff Landry, Louisiana’s attorney general, and a dozen other Republican-led states and ordered the administration to hold quarterly lease sales nationally. The complaint filed by Landry and other states was introduced at the end of March. Doughty’s order will hold until there is an official decision made in the case.

The initial ruling said the “court does not favor nationwide injunctions unless absolutely necessary,” suggesting the injunction was not needed. Another concern is the monetary losses from not leasing this land.

While the decision garnered support from some republicans nationally, environmentalists are calling for the executive order’s pause to be permanent, according to Iowa Capital Dispatch. A long-term ban would assist the Biden administration in meeting its goal of conserving a third of U.S. land and waters by 2030.

Biden to Suspend Oil and Gas Leases in Alaskan Wildlife Refuge


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Elizabeth Miglin | June 2, 2021

The Biden administration is suspending all oil and gas leases in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in order to take a deeper look at the environmental impacts of drilling in the region, the Interior Department announced on Tuesday. 

The Refuge is a 1.6 million-acre stretch of tundra on Alaska’s North Slope and is home to endangered polar bears whose population have been in dramatic decline due to diminishing sea ice. The region also provides important calving habitat for the Porcupine caribou herd.

Under the Trump administration, the Bureau of Land Management began administering an oil and gas program in the Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge. The opening of the coast to drilling signified the culmination of a four-decade-long effort by the oil industry to gain access to the refuge. The lease sale on January 6, 2021 resulted in 10-year leases on nine tracts covering more than 430,000 acres according to the Department of the Interior. Imposing more restrictions on development in the region or ending the leases altogether would undo a signature policy of the Trump administration. 

The suspension of the leases follows the Biden Administrations official review of the activity in the Refuge. The review found multiple defects in the Record of Decision supporting the leases, such as the lack of analysis of a reasonable range of alternatives and other legal deficiencies. The suspensions, notably, do not go as far as environmental groups might hope as they do not void the leases all together. However, the initial executive order to review the leases left open the possibility the department would establish a new environmental review process to address legal flaws in the program itself. 

Biden Administration Announces Environmental Conservation Plan


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Josie Taylor | May 10, 2021

On Thursday the Biden administration announced a conservation plan called “America the Beautiful” with the goal to conserve 30 percent of US land and water by 2030. They are calling it the nation’s first national conservation goal and made a warning about the bad effects climate change is having on the country’s land. 

This goal will be voluntary and locally-led, yet they hope everyone will participate. Officials in the Biden administration said that Earth is in a “catastrophic extinction crisis,” and warned that we need to protect our environment and biodiversity. 

Brenda Mallory, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality said that, “nature in America is in trouble and Americans across the country are seeing and feeling the impact.” She then said that this plan is a necessity, and that we need “all hands on deck.”

The federal government is working with US states and Tribal nations to protect wildlife both on land and water. They also are planning to protect public parks. 

Besides combatting the serious problem of climate change, the Biden administration says their plan will also promote racial equity and create new jobs. They will do this by making natural spaces more easily accessible to underprivileged and underserved areas of the country. 

EPA leader focused on water quality, biofuels and livestock in first Iowa visit


Via North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality

Elizabeth Miglin | May 6, 2021

The new Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael S. Regan visited Iowa on Tuesday to discuss agriculture’s impact on environmental issues. 

Regan’s first visit to Iowa, included a tour of the Lincolnway Energy ethanol plant near Nevada, followed by a group discussion with farmers and a meeting with Gov. Kim Reynolds in Des Moines. Later in the day, Regan met with state and city officials to announce plans for a superfund site near downtown Des Moines. Notably, no discussions occurred with environmental organizations during his trip. 

The focus of Regan’s visit surrounded water quality, biofuels, and livestock production. Iowa environmental advocates have long supported regulation of nitrogen and phosphorus, two of the main farm fertilizers polluting Iowa’s lakes and streams. However, Regan spoke in favor of a nutrient reduction strategy focused on individual farmers taking steps to address this issue, according to the Iowa Capitol Dispatch


Regan’s visit comes as the issue of waivers to the federal Renewable Fuel Standard are before the U.S. Supreme Court. The waivers, which are highly objected to by farmers, allow oil refiners to not blend biofuels into oil production per the Renewable Fuel Standard, according to Iowa Environmental Focus. Although the Biden Administration does not support the reinstatement of the waivers, concerns have arisen over the administration’s push for electric vehicles and lack of support for corn and soybean-based biofuels. Speaking to these concerns, Regan emphasized the necessity for the co-existence of biofuels and electric vehicles for the foreseeable future.

Biden Begins Earth Day Climate Summit with World Leaders


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Elizabeth Miglin | April 22, 2021

President Biden’s Leaders Summit on Climate begins today, on Earth Day, and will conclude on Friday. The summit will be attended by 40 world leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, alongside business leaders. The summit intends to rally public and private sector finance to reach net-zero emissions, according to the New York Times

To begin the summit, Biden announced goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in half from 2005 levels by 2030 and net-zero by 2050. Although specific plans are undisclosed, the administration is focusing on establishing union jobs in the climate industry and U.S. economic competitiveness in a government-wide approach. The administration hopes to encourage world leaders to adopt similar ambitious policies. 

The summit comes as climate scientists warn ambitious proactive action is necessary in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Indian Prime Minister Naraendra Modi, and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa all noted the need to better coordinate equitable efforts with developing countries in their opening speeches.

The Leaders Summit on Climate is one of several world leader meetings held in anticipation of the 26th session of the United Nations’ Climate Conference of the Parties (COP26), scheduled for November.