What Climate Policy Actions a Biden-Harris Administration Might Undertake its First 100 Days

What climate policy actions would a Biden-Harris administration undertake during its first 100 days? Climate Project 21, an organization co-chaired by Christy Goldfuss of the Center for American Progress and Tim Profeta of Duke University, has posted 11 briefing memos on its website offering detailed recommendations, vetted by “more than 150 experts with high-level government experience, including nine former cabinet appointees,” on what a Democratic administration should do.

The memos purport to “deliver actionable advice for a rapid-start, whole-of-government climate response coordinated by the White House and accountable to the President.” Given the prominence of the authors and their center-left bona fides, a Biden-Harris administration would likely act on many of the recommendations.

The group’s overview memo, “Transition Recommendations for Climate Governance and Action,” confirms something many free marketers have said for years. Climate change is a central planner’s best friend. As the memo puts it, climate change affects every community, every sector, and every nation. Thus, addressing climate change requires “domestic investment, rulemakings, and policy changes, as well as robust international diplomacy.” Indeed, it ultimately requires “new authorities that allow for structural and systemic changes.”

At a minimum, “Every agency in the federal government—and every policy council in the White House—has some degree of opportunity and responsibility for addressing climate change.” No agency’s connection to climate change is too small or indirect to be overlooked. Every agency must get with the “whole-of-government plan.”

Key actions the memo recommends to institutionalize climate ambition and coordinate climate action across the federal government include: 

  • Issue an Executive Order (EO) creating a White House National Climate Council (NCC) co-equal to the Domestic Policy Council and the National Economic Council.
  • Commission as Assistant to the President (AP) an experienced, respected Counselor or Senior Advisor who is 1) a credible leader on climate policy, 2) who sits in the West Wing and 3) who has direct access to and is trusted by the President of the United States, to lead the Administration’s domestic and international efforts on climate change.”
  • Launch a 90-day Cabinet-level task force to write and publish a new, four-year Climate Ambition Agenda, containing specific, agency-by-agency actions on greenhouse gas mitigation and the clean energy transition, climate change adaptation and resilience, and international climate diplomacy and development. 
  • Establish a high-level, internal climate team within each department or agency with significant climate responsibilities, accountable to the Secretary or Administrator, connected to the NCC and the White House, and empowered to mobilize the full assets of the department or agency.

Actions recommended for inauguration day include:

  • Rejoin the Paris Climate Treaty.
  • Issue an executive order establishing the aforementioned-National Climate Council and embed aspects of the president’s climate agenda in all other White House policy councils.
  • Formalize the Council on Environmental Quality’s leadership of government-wide environmental justice programs.

Policy priorities for the first 100 days include:

  • Work with Congress to repeal recent Trump administration climate-related rulemakings via the Congressional Review Act.
  • Issue early guidance to reinstate social cost of carbon analysis and incorporate social justice metrics in rulemakings.
  • Direct agencies to devise agency sustainability plans, including metrics and plans for key climate outcomes such as enhanced energy efficiency.
  • Work with Congress to increase the budget for core climate and energy programs across the administration, focusing early on key early budget milestones.
  • Nominate and elevate individuals with climate leadership qualifications when filling key posts across the wide range of government positions required to support an effective, coordinated, government-wide climate mobilization.