Environmental activists in the PCC community are balancing both excitement and skepticism in response to President-elect Joe Biden’s ambitious climate agenda.
Biden’s victory could mark a turning point for global climate action: he’s promised to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement and experts foresee him starting his presidency by calling for a series of executive actions addressing climate change, as well as a major push to insert clean energy provisions into legislation with the purpose of replacing planet-warming fossil fuel emissions.
Throughout his campaign, Biden committed to rejoin the global agreement on climate change and said that on the first day of his administration he will sign an executive order to conserve 30 percent of United States land and waters by 2030.
“Today, the Trump Administration officially left the Paris Climate Agreement. And in exactly 77 days, a Biden Administration will rejoin it,” Biden wrote on Twitter on Nov.4.
Rejoining the global agreement on climate change only requires a letter to the United Nations and it will take effect 30 days later. The Senate could remain under the control of Republicans, though, who have generally opposed climate legislation.
Citizens’ Climate Lobby has worked alongside the Green Lancer Sustainability Club at PCC to fight the existential threat of climate change. The groups work to keep people aware of environmental issues on campus.
CCL empowers everyday people to work together on climate change solutions and helps them get in touch with their elected representatives and local media. They are building support in Congress for a national bipartisan solution to climate change. Presently, their goal is to pass the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. They have introduced HR 763, The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act in Congress in 2019. In addition, they have helped create the House Climate Solutions Caucus in the House of Representatives, and they collaborate with the California state legislature to work towards a federal Carbon Fee and Dividend resolution.
Marshall Saunders is the founder of CCL. According to Saunders, “political will” is the most essential ingredient to take care of the climate crisis.
Thanks to the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, fees will be collected on carbon emissions to be allocated to low and middle income Americans, emissions will be reduced by 40% and at least 295,000 lives will be saved by 2030, due to improved air quality. It will also create 2.1 million new jobs.
President Donald Trump restrained California’s vast influence on American emissions, energy and environmental policy in the past four years, considering that decisions made in California ripple to the national economy.
Layla Hernandez, the public relations officer of the Green Lancer Sustainability Club, thinks that Biden brings hope for environmentalists, considering that the previous administration did not prioritize the climate crisis and the turmoil it’s causing. However, she also intends to make sure Biden follows through with his future plans to tackle climate change. She is hopeful, but also realistic: she wants to believe that environmental change will be made, but she won’t believe it until she sees it.
“It takes a lot to change and undo what the fossil fuel industry has done to the environment. That’s why I remain on the fence on whether or not change will be made. Environmental change is not linear. It takes work and persistence, so I hope Biden will make his plans come into fruition,” said Hernandez.
The Biden administration is showing promising signs of upholding their climate goals. For example, their dedication to rejoining the Paris Agreement as soon as President-Elect Biden begins his term is a huge win, according to Jocelyn Nuño, Green Lancer Sustainability Club Member.
“I remain skeptical toward Biden’s projection to have net zero emissions by 2050- especially because of the pushback he has received around the Green New Deal and its goal to end fracking in the US,” said Nuño.
According to what CalEPA Secretary Jared Blumenfeld, the state’s top environmental official told Politico, they really want to work with the administration to show what is possible. Whether Biden’s goal is to get carbon-free energy by 2035 or zero-emission vehicles, or building standards of all the things done over the last 30 years, what he want to do is work with him to scale that.
Legal experts believe that thanks to the help of Mary Nichols, who is considered a top contender to become U.S. EPA administrator, Biden will prioritize a restoration of California’s legal ability to tackle greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, among other things.
Under Trump, the EPA revoked the state’s Clean Air Act waiver. Biden may grant the waiver, restoring the rules of 13 other states that agreed to follow California’s lead. The agency may also try to withdraw Trump’s rule that cut emission-reduction targets and reinstate the Obama-era regulation on the national level.
California may also apply for waivers on other climate and clean air policies, and move its Advanced Clean Trucks rule which requires manufacturers to increase the proportion of electric trucks they sell in the state, as well as Newsom’s executive order to ban new gas vehicles by 2035.
Noelani Fixler, Green Lancer Sustainability Club President thinks that it is quite perturbing that having a president that believes in climate change is the bare minimum, when the world is facing total climate catastrophe.
“Though I am hopeful about Biden’s bold moves on climate change, I fear it is not enough. The incoming administration does not have any intentions to ban fracking which is unsettling. Either way, it is a relief to have an administration which is looking to take action immediately,” said Fixler.
Biden is also expected to take care of issues on other fronts, like water, wildfires, and fossil fuel drilling.
The Trump administration has tried to rein in the water California environmental policy through executive order and by revising protections for fish under the Endangered Species Act. Biden could choose to stop defending the endangered species rules in court.
State Water Contractors general manager Jennifer Pierre said in a statement to Politico that water is a bipartisan issue: regardless of where one may fall on the political spectrum, all Americans rely on clean, affordable water to run homes, farms and businesses.
Biden promised to put an end to federal attacks on California’s forest management policies, as well. Ideally, this would help to tame overgrown forests that, along with climate change, are fueling the state’s out of control and record-setting wildfires. Just this season, fires in California have already burned a record of 4 million acres.
The majority of California’s forests are owned by the federal government. Unfortunately both Trump and President Obama before him didn’t do much to preserve them.
Trump planned to open hundreds of thousands of acres of public land in California to oil and gas drilling despite legal challenges, but environmentalists believe Biden will revise at least two resource management plans that allow oil and gas leasing.
President-elect Biden has promised to bring about a package of measures that will result in the most ambitious climate plan of any US president to date. An important part of Biden’s climate plan is a commitment for the US to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050: the same promise made by other major economies, including Japan, the EU and the UK. This would mean that more than three-fifths of global carbon emissions will be under net-zero targets.
“I understand one of the ways to reduce fossil fuels is that they are planning to use EV type cars only by 2035. That seems like a very ambitious goal, but it can be done. I certainly am glad to have a president that believes climate change is real and is dedicated to doing something about it, and not against it,” said Tsianina Sturges, from the Office of Student Life at PCC.