Climate was the White House’s theme for January 27. President Joe Biden gave a major speech and signed two Executive Orders. Top climate advisers Gina McCarthy and John Kerry held a press conference and even answered some questions.
Biden began by announcing, “Today is ‘Climate Day’ at the White House and—which means that today is ‘Jobs Day’ at the White House.” Biden went to great lengths to reassure trade union leaders, who are still an important constituency in the Democratic Party (even if most trades union members are not), that fighting climate change requires creating “millions of good-paying union jobs” building the new green infrastructure.
For supporters of the Green New Deal’s focus on environmental justice, Biden was similarly reassuring: “With this executive order, environmental justice will be at the center of all we do addressing the disproportionate health and environmental and economic impacts on communities of color—so-called ‘fenceline communities’—especially those communities — brown, black, Native American, poor whites.”
The president also emphasized that dealing with the “climate crisis” would become a principal focus of every executive branch department and agency: “It’s a whole-of-government approach to put climate change at the center of our domestic, national security, and foreign policy.” He also made an offhand remark that makes it clear who will be running the federal government. At the beginning of his speech, he introduced Gina McCarthy: “And Gina—you run everything, Gina.” McCarthy, who was administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in the second Obama term and until recently president of the Natural Resources Defense Council (which had $173 million in income in 2018), has been named National Climate Advisor, with the same rank as the National Security Advisor and Domestic Policy Advisor. She will be head of the White House Climate Policy Office and also oversee a National Climate Task Force.
The executive order on “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad” included several specific actions, the most notable being a temporary moratorium, which may become permanent, on oil and gas leasing on federal lands and offshore areas. Oil production from the federal estate accounts for nearly one-quarter of total U. S. production. The Western Energy Alliance immediately filed suit to challenge the leasing ban.
At the press conference, John Kerry, former Senator, Democratic presidential nominee, and Secretary of State, and now Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, was asked about people losing their jobs in fossil fuel industries as a result of the administration’s agenda. Kerry’s reply was his usual tone-deaf self: “What President Biden wants to do is make sure those folks have better choices, that they have alternatives, that they can be the people to go to work to make the solar panels.”
The White House also announced an international Climate Leaders’ Summit to be hosted by the United States on Earth Day, April 22, which is appropriately the 151st anniversary of Vladimir Lenin’s birth.