On January 20, we will begin to see a monumental shift in federal policies to address climate change and the environment. President-elect Biden has said that he wants to be a global leader on climate issues and plans to enforce new climate policies whenever he can. He has promised a $2 trillion investment in clean energy and environmental justice, to make electricity carbon-free by 2035, net-zero emissions in the United States by 2050, and an immediate return to the Paris Agreement. He has pledged to make climate a focus in every federal agency.
The Biden-Harris team has already announced several important staff selections confirming that the new Administration intends to make climate and the environment top priorities, including Gina McCarthy, who led the EPA under President Obama and wrote the first climate change regulations; Brenda Mallory, who formerly worked at CEQ as their top lawyer; and Michael Regan, the current head of the North Carolina Office of Environmental Quality.
We can expect the EPA to renew its focus on science-based policy-making, developing public health protections that create a healthy environment, and reducing the influence of industry. Environmental justice will be another strong area of focus for the Biden Administration. We expect to see significant changes through the Biden Administration’s establishment of a new climate and environmental division at the Department of Justice. This will likely lead to more regions referring cases to the Justice Department. There will also likely be an expansion of what is viewed and in turn pursued as a criminal case. This could include enforcement measures related to specific pollutants. President-elect Biden has said that he plans to aggressively prosecute energy companies for pollution violations.
Companies with sustainable business models can expect to fare well under the Biden administration. President-elect Biden believes that every American company has a “moral responsibility, societal obligation and business imperative” to curb climate change and build a sustainable future.
He will demand more from companies and has pledged to raise taxes on corporations to fund major climate initiatives. President-elect Biden plans to sign an executive order requiring public companies to disclose climate change-related financial risks and greenhouse gas emissions in their operations. He has said that corporations need a new framework to fully account for the environmental and social costs of their operations and will be working with Congress on legislation.
Passing sweeping climate legislation to address climate change will be difficult, since it would require more than the slim Senate majority, but Democrats will likely try to pass tax provisions including tax incentives for clean energy, a carbon tax, and other revenue-related climate measures through the budget reconciliation process. Incentive ideas include consolidating dozens of energy incentives into technology-neutral ones; allowing new tax credits for investment in emerging energy technology and to produce electricity from that technology; and allowing an energy tax credit for energy storage technologies, including equipment that receives, stores, and delivers energy using batteries, pumped hydropower, and other technologies.
President-elect Biden plans to create a new Advanced Research Projects Agency on Climate to target affordable, game-changing technologies to help America achieve his 100 percent clean energy target. He plans to create one million jobs in clean energy and through projects such as the construction of electric vehicle charging stations, the weatherization of millions of buildings, and updating electric grids. Solar-panel makers and other clean-energy companies can also expect to benefit from increased investments.
There are over 100 environmental rules and regulations that were undone, put on hold, or weakened during the Trump administration that President-elect Biden will likely reinstate or strengthen. We also expect the Biden administration to immediately rescind many of President Trump’s executive orders, particularly a March 2017 order calling on every federal agency to dismantle their climate policies. President-elect Biden is likely to start by pushing efforts that have bipartisan support including green energy provisions in any economic stimulus legislation that Congress will consider this year, including research and development funding for clean energy, money for states to continue their renewable energy expansion, and an extension of tax credits for renewable energy industries.
Democrats have already begun discussions on a green infrastructure bill that would include significant climate mitigation and greenhouse gas reduction provisions. Additionally, Congressmen David McKinley (R-WV) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR) introduced a bipartisan bill in December that among other things would create a clean electricity standard and may be a starting point for climate legislation that could pass the Senate.
President-elect Biden plans to sign executive orders instructing agencies to develop new methane limits for oil and gas wells, to reinstate and strengthen fuel economy standards, and to tighten efficiency standards for appliances and buildings. He plans to cancel the 2017 executive order that lifted restrictions on offshore energy exploration and production. He could also stop expedited reviews of pipelines and other fossil fuel projects. President-elect Biden also plans to sign an executive order to conserve thirty percent of U.S. land and waters by 2030.
On the international front, President-elect Biden selected John Kerry as his global climate envoy and included a seat for him on the National Security Council. Former Secretary of State Kerry was a key negotiator of the 2015 Paris Agreement. President-elect Biden plans to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord, which will incentivize further development of the clean energy industry. Without tariffs on solar parts, the solar energy industry is also expected to grow at a faster pace. The Biden administration will be focused on renewing America’s leadership and persuading other world leaders to make climate-friendly policy changes a high priority, including negotiations on international climate treaties and participating in U.N. climate talks designed to further global emissions reduction efforts.
Michael Kempner is founder and CEO of MWWPR.