Climate, Health and Equity Brief
Paris, pipelines and Presidential leadership
January 22, 2021
The Climate, Health & Equity Brief is GMMB’s take on the week’s news on the current impacts of climate change. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do so by clicking here.
Hot Topic: Paris is always a good idea. Just hours after his inauguration, President Joe Biden took decisive action this week to put the U.S. back in the driver’s seat on climate action. With the stroke of a pen, he:
- Re-entered the U.S. into the Paris Agreement, a treaty signed by 189 countries to limit global warming to well below 2°C;
- Revoked the permit for the long-debated Keystone XL pipeline, which would harm tribal lands, leach toxic pollutants along its path and increase our reliance on dirty fuels;
- Reversed rollbacks to vehicle emissions standards, reinstating strict limits on planet-warming pollution from cars and trucks;
- Reversed decisions to weaken federal land protections for 27 U.S. national monuments, and
- Placed a moratorium on fossil fuel activity in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
President Biden’s quick move to rejoin the Paris Agreement ends the nation’s Trump-era repudiation of the global effort to avert climate disaster. Participation in the Agreement will become official in 30 days—the first step in a long road toward regaining traction, making up for squandered time and achieving progress toward a net-zero future.
If the U.S. is to live up to the Paris Agreement’s legally binding goals, President Biden’s day-one executive actions will need to be followed quickly by aggressive climate policies. With the largest-ever team of climate experts now serving in the Biden administration, this work has already begun.
In addition to signing the executive orders noted above, President Biden has directed federal agencies to begin the process of reviewing and reinstating the 170 environmental regulations abolished or weakened by the former administration, some of which will take years to undo. The Interior Department now requires that any new oil and gas activity first obtain signoff from a top Biden Administration appointee, effectively slowing approval for more than 400 drilling permit applications. And Biden’s team will soon develop the official plan for reducing U.S. emissions—also called a nationally determined contribution (NDC)—which will provide the road map to eliminating power sector carbon emissions by 2035 and achieving a 100 percent clean energy economy by 2050.
With these and many more climate moves expected in the weeks and months ahead, we are optimistic that the promise of a brighter and healthier future could once again be within reach.
—Matt & Traci, GMMB
Among 17 executive actions completed just hours after the inauguration, President Biden re-entered the U.S. into the Paris Agreement and revoked the Keystone XL pipeline permit, among other key actions, elevating climate action as a top priority of his administration. (The New York Times)
In one of the largest renewable energy deals in U.S. history, New York state announced a partnership with Norwegian company Equinor to build two new wind facilities off the coast of Long Island, which is expected to power more than 550,000 homes in the state. (Reuters)
BrightDrop, a new subsidiary of General Motors, will partner with FedEx to roll out an all-electric delivery fleet to advance efforts to electrify package deliveryin the U.S. (Axios)
The French central bank, which currently holds $27 billion in assets, announced that it will completely divest from coal and limit its exposure to companies contributing to climate change by 2024. (Reuters)
Following three massive drought-driven wildfires in the state last year, Colorado Governor Jared Polis finalized a new statewide roadmap to achieve a 90 percent cut in the state’s 2005-level emissions by 2050. (The Journal)
Politics & Economy
A new survey found that 53 percent of voters from both parties see climate change as a high priority for the president and Congress, showing increased public support for climate action and growing potential for bipartisan legislation. (The New York Times)
A federal appeals court has directed the EPA to draft new emissions regulations after the court struck down a Trump-era rule easing limits on power plant pollution, clearing a path for the Biden administration to enact greater emissions limits. (E&E News, The Hill)
More than 100 U.S. lawmakers signed an open letter calling on President Biden to build a global consensus on fighting climate change by adding Paris agreement targets to future trade deals. (The Washington Post)
A new study found that disruptions to food supply from rising global temperatures contribute to childhood malnutrition at equal or greater rates to poverty, lack of sanitation and poor education. (Forbes)
Unseasonably warm January temperatures and hurricane-strength winds ignited eight out-of-season wildfires across California this week, burning more than 1,000 acres so far and forcing hundreds to evacuate. (The Washington Post, The Mercury News)
A new study analyzing preventable deaths due to poor air quality in Europe revealed that more than 50,000 premature deaths could be avoided each year if cities reduced pollution levels to meet World Health Organization guidelines. (Reuters)
In statewide environmental justice announcements, Illinois dedicated funding for clean energy and climate initiatives in low-income communities of color, and Oregon committed to limiting future land development projects in neighborhoods already overburdened by pollution. (InsideClimate News)
The Navajo Nation reached a $10 million settlement with the Sunnyside Gold Corp. mining company after a 2015 oil spill left 200 miles of river on Navajo lands contaminated with arsenic, lead and other harmful metals. (Associated Press)
While some U.S. environmental organizations have made more significant progress toward staff and board diversity, new data revealed that 80 groups added an average of two people of color and two women to senior staff positions since 2017. (NBC News)
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