The environmental policies of the Trump administration consisted of prioritizing polluters over the environment. During his four years in office, Trump set back environmental policy and worked to undo decades of progress. During President Biden’s first year in office, he has worked to undo Trump’s anti-environment policies.
When then-President Obama announced that the U.S. and almost 200 other nations committed to the Paris Agreement, he envisioned “a world that is safer and more secure, more prosperous, and freer.” On June 1, 2017, Trump announced the U.S. would withdraw from the Agreement. “The bottom line is that the Paris accord is very unfair at the highest level to the United States,” Trump said. Nearly four years later, on Biden’s first day in office, on January 20, the U.S. rejoined the Paris Agreement. “Climate change and science diplomacy can never again be “add-ons” in our foreign policy discussions,” the U.S. State Department stated. “We are reengaging the world on all fronts.”
White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council
Addressing issues related to environmental justice did not occur by the Trump administration. However, on January 27, 2021, Biden established the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC) in an executive order. The WHEJAC will advise on how the federal government can increase efforts to address environmental justice.
“We know that we cannot achieve health justice, economic justice, racial justice, or educational justice without environmental justice. That is why President Biden and I are committed to addressing environmental injustice,” said Vice President Harris. “This historic White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council will ensure that our administration’s work is informed by the insights, expertise, and lived experience of environmental justice leaders from across the nation.”
Clean energy deployment
Energy and environmental policies under the Trump administration stifled renewable energy development on public lands. According to a Center for American Progress analysis, he approved fewer renewable energy projects than his predecessor Obama did.
Since Biden came into office, he has worked to make clean energy deployment on public lands a priority, which include:
- The Department of the Interior held an offshore wind lease sale, the largest ever, in the New York Bight off the coasts of New York and New Jersey. The lease sale will generate a projected seven gigawatts of wind energy, enough to power two million homes, and create thousands of jobs in neighboring communities.
- Federal agencies are working together to increase the build-up of offshore wind.
- The Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, Defense, Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency established a collaboration to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of reviews of clean energy projects on public lands to expand renewable energy.
- The Department of the Interior approved 18 onshore projects that will deliver 4.175 GW of renewable energy in 2021.
In 2017, Trump announced his intention to shrink two public monuments in Utah. Bears Ears National Monument, created by Obama in 2016, shrunk by 85 percent under Trump’s initiative. Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, created by then-President Clinton, shrunk almost in half. Three years later, the Trump administration reduced two other monuments, Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monument off the coast of New England. In October 2021, the Biden administration restored protections for the four monuments.
“By restoring these national monuments, which were significantly cut back during the previous administration, President Biden is fulfilling a key promise and upholding the longstanding principle that America’s national parks, monuments, and other protected areas are to be protected for all time and for all people,” according to a White House statement.
Restoring the Obama administration legacy
Biden’s environmental policies restore the legacy of the Obama administration. They signal that the federal government prioritizes the air, water, and land of the U.S. The Biden era legacy will be one that reduces emissions, drives renewable energy deployment, and protects the wilderness.
Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash