10 Executive Actions to Confront the Climate Crisis
May Boeve / 350.org
(November 7, 2020) — The presidential race has just been called: Joe Biden will be our next President. Voters turned out in record numbers and polls show that climate action was a major issue.
Now we must get to work holding the next administration accountable to bold and urgent climate action:
Our job between now and Inauguration Day is clear: Put as much pressure on Biden to use the full power of the Presidency in his first 100 days to combat the climate crisis.
We are in an indisputable climate emergency, and we need to act quickly to make up for the last four years of inaction.
If Congress remains divided, climate legislation will be difficult to pass. That’s why we’re focusing on the measures that Biden can take immediately to keep fossil fuels in the ground and build a just transition.
But without loud and vocal pressure, climate justice could once again be put on the back burner. Every signature helps us build public pressure for these actions.
Executive Actions We Demand on Biden’s First Day in Office:
- End fossil fuel extraction on public lands.
- End crude oil and gas exports.
- Deny permits for new fossil fuel infrastructure projects and rescind federal permits for Keystone XL.
- Stop fracking through EPA pollution rules.
- Create a Just Transition task force.
- Investigate and prosecute fossil fuel polluters.
- Direct federal agencies to assess and mitigate environmental harms in low-income areas and communities of color.
- End fossil fuel subsidies.
- Use the Clean Air Act to set a science-based national pollution cap.
- Ensure a just and equitable recovery from climate-related disasters.
ACTION: Our climate can’t wait, so neither will we. Will you sign on to our list of 10 Executive Actions we need the Biden Administration to take on day one?
We know that even with a “climate friendly” leader in the White House, it takes a mass movement of people to stand up to the power of the fossil fuel lobby in Washington.
Under the Obama administration, we had to fight tooth and nail for every victory. But together, we achieved victories that many said were impossible – like putting a halt to the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.
But the stakes are even higher now, and we can’t afford a return to Obama-era climate policies. We need to phase out existing fossil fuel extraction and implement a Green New Deal that protects communities, workers, and our planet. Let’s get to work.
May Boeve is the Executive Director of 350.org
The ClimatePresident Action Plan: Ten Steps for the Next Administration’s First Ten Days
The United States faces an indisputable climate emergency. The solution to the crisis is also inarguable: We must transform our extractive economy to a regenerative and inclusive one.
The actions called for in this Presidential action plan can be implemented by the President acting alone without any Congressional action. These ten actions form the necessary foundation for the country’s true transformation to a safer, healthier, and more equitable world for everyone.
The only real question: How can we make this large-scale transition quickly enough to limit warming to below 1.5°C in a manner that is fair, just, and equitable to all?
If the world is to have any reasonable chance of staying below 1.5°C and avoiding the worst impacts of climate change, the next President of the United States must demonstrate national and global leadership and take immediate and decisive action to launch a rapid and just transition off of fossil fuels economy-wide. Recognizing the steps that the next President can take without any additional action from Congress is critical because these are the “no excuses” actions that can be taken immediately to set the nation on a course to zero emissions.
The actions called for in this Presidential action plan can be implemented by the President acting alone without any Congressional action.
We recognize that a full solution to the climate crisis requires action at all levels of government and from many different aspects of society. The next President should also work with Congress to pass a Green New Deal, as well as with state and local governments and in international forums to achieve further action at every scale from the very local to the truly global. The Presidential action plan below crystallizes the top ten most important actions the next President can take on climate to launch a broad mobilization to drive U.S. greenhouse emissions to zero through a just and equitable transition.
While the actions outlined in this plan can be initiated by a single individual — the President — they will touch the lives of every person living in America and those beyond who are harmed by the climate crisis. As a fundamental building block of this plan, we must take this once-in-a-century opportunity to establish new relationships of power that are centered in justice, equity, and environmental sustainability to give our future a fighting chance.
In implementing each of the actions described herein, the next President must prioritize support for communities that historically have been harmed first and most by the extractive economy, including communities of color, Indigenous communities, and low-wealth communities.
The next President must also take special care to ensure that the rights of Indigenous Peoples are upheld, which includes following the Indigenous Principles of Just Transition. Moreover, climate policies must drive job growth and spur a new green economy that is designed and built by communities and workers and that provides union jobs with family-sustaining wages. These policies must ensure that workers in the energy sector and related industries, whose jobs will be fundamentally transformed, are not abandoned.
Finally, these policies must espouse energy democracy by empowering communities long-polluted by the dirty energy economy to govern their own electricity systems, choose clean and affordable energy, and reinvest profits back into their local communities instead of utility pockets.
The first steps that would put us clearly on a path to a regenerative and inclusive society can be launched immediately by the next President. In January 2021, we will insist that the next President take these ten steps in their first ten days in office. These ten actions form the necessary foundation for the country’s true transformation to a safer, healthier, and more equitable world for everyone.
The Essential Climate Actions the Next President Can Take without Congress
1. Declare a national climate emergency under the National Emergencies Act
This step will communicate the urgency of the climate crisis and unlock specific statutory powers to help accomplish the necessary response. Reinstate the crude oil export ban and promote rapid clean energy development per emergency powers; all other actions in this plan can be accomplished under the President’s regular executive powers. Direct relevant federal agencies to reverse all Trump administration executive climate rollbacks and replace with sufficiently strong action as described below.
2. Keep fossil fuels in the ground
End new fossil fuel leasing and development approvals, ban fracking, and commit to a plan to phase out existing extraction:
- Issue an Executive Order directing the Secretary of the Interior to immediately halt all fossil fuel lease sales and permits, phase out existing extraction, and ban fracking on federal lands and waters under existing resource extraction laws.
- Issue an Executive Order directing the EPA Administrator to issue a stringent pollution prevention rule for the oil and gas sector, effectively stopping fracking and other ultra-hazardous and energy-intensive extraction methods everywhere.
- Commit to work with federal agencies, states, and Congress to complete a plan to phase out all U.S. fossil fuel extraction over the next several decades.
3. Stop fossil fuel exports and infrastructure approvals
- Issue an Executive Order immediately re-instituting the crude oil export ban.
- Issue an Executive Order halting gas exports to the fullest extent allowed by the Natural Gas Act.
- Issue an Executive Order directing all federal agencies to deny permits for new fossil fuel infrastructure projects, including but not limited to pipelines, import and export terminals, storage facilities, refineries, and petrochemical plants, consistent with the science demonstrating that any such projects are incompatible with limiting temperature rise to below 1.5°C.
4. Shift financial flows from fossil fuels to climate solutions
Issue an Executive Order directing actions to promote investments in climate solutions instead of dirty fossil fuels, including:
- Establishing a new mandate for the Federal Reserve and Secretary of the Treasury to manage climate risk
- Urging the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to mandate corporate disclosure of material risks related to the climate crisis in SEC filings, including disclosure of asset retirement obligations
- Directing the Department of Energy to end all loan and guarantee financing programs for fossil fuels
- Abolishing the Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy
- Directing the State Department, U.S. Treasury, U.S. Export-Import Bank, and U.S. Development Finance Corporation to prohibit any U.S. government financing to fossil fuel projects and related infrastructure overseas
- Directing all federal agencies to ensure that polluters who enter into settlements in connection with corporate wrongdoing are not able to deduct the payments from their taxes, thereby stopping the shift of a significant portion of the burden onto taxpayers.
5. Use the Clean Air Act to set a science-based national pollution cap for greenhouse pollutants. Then, use all Clean Air Act programs to drive emissions towards zero economy-wide
- Issue an Executive Order directing the EPA to designate greenhouse pollutants as criteria air pollutants and set a science-based national pollution cap (National Ambient Air Quality Standard, or NAAQS) under the Clean Air Act. The science-based target is essential to unlock the full power of the Clean Air Act and ensure that the overall climate action plan will succeed.
- Direct the EPA to issue strict Clean Air Act rules to rapidly reduce greenhouse emissions from power plants, motor vehicles, airplanes, ships and trains, including implementing a ban on the sale of all new fossil fuel vehicles by 2030.
6. Power the electricity sector with 100% clean and renewable energy by 2030 and promote energy democracy
- Pursuant to the National Emergencies Act, issue an Executive Order directing the Secretary of Defense to redirect a portion of military spending to carry out a rapid construction program of renewable energy projects to meet a significant portion of the nation’s power needs. The program shall prioritize photovoltaic solar installations built on already existing structures, and well-managed wind and PV solar installations and battery storage sited on already-degraded environments — and in doing so, generate a substantial number of new family-sustaining jobs.
- Pursuant to emergency powers, provide critical loan guarantees:
- To clean energy developers, including communities and cooperatives, to help cover upfront costs for new renewable generation;
- To building and home owners for building electrification, weatherization, and energy efficiency upgrades; and
- To compel utilities to transform the egregiously-outdated and unsafe grid system with technologies that are aligned with a resilient, decentralized, and modern energy system.
- Issue an Executive Order directing the Rural Utility Service to purchase stranded fossil fuel assets of rural cooperatives and municipal power providers on terms that would commit the cooperatives and providers to 100% solar and wind generation by 2030.
- Direct the Department of Energy to rapidly shift and expand existing federal energy financing programs to prioritize funding for clean energy projects (e.g. distributed and community solar) and alternative energy governance models (e.g. worker-owned cooperatives and community choice aggregation) in communities that are disproportionately harmed by the dirty energy economy. All actions should be designed to ensure that energy burdens for low- and middle-income communities are lowered, and the President should direct the Department of Commerce and other relevant agencies to implement policies that protect against any inadvertent energy price hikes.
- 7. Launch a just transition to protect our communities, workers, and economy
- Issue an Executive Order creating an inter-agency just transition task force with a deadline of six months to create a comprehensive, multi-industry, national program that guarantees support and protection for affected communities and workers.
- The task force must meaningfully consult with unions, workers, Indigenous Peoples, and frontline community organizations, and include the EPA, Departments of Labor, Energy, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, Commerce, Interior, Defense, and other relevant agencies
8. Advance Climate Justice: Direct federal agencies to assess and mitigate environmental harms to disproportionately impacted Indigenous Peoples, People and Communities of Color, and low-wealth communities
- Issue an environmental justice Executive Order that strengthens Executive Order 12898 by directing federal agencies to:
- Pro-actively “mitigate,” instead of only to “identify and address,” disproportionate health and environmental impacts of their programs on Indigenous Peoples, low-income and low-wealth communities, and people and communities of color
- Use geographic, socioeconomic, and environmental hazard metrics when identifying environmental justice communities.
- Direct the Department of Treasury, Health and Human Services, and the Attorney General to commence a study for mitigation and payment of damages to those deliberately and disproportionately exposed to and harmed by fossil fuel pollution and toxins.
- Direct the Department of Justice to institute rules to protect the rights of individuals protesting climate and environmental harms, including from extreme prosecution and disproportionate sentencing for such persons.
- Issue an Executive Orderdirecting the Departments of Justice and Interior to investigate and, as appropriate, seek damages and restoration from fossil fuel industry actors found responsible for damages to public lands and waters, including the Gulf of Mexico.
- Reverse all harmful and unethical Trump immigration directives and issue a cross-agency directive to respond to and absorb the growing number of climate-displaced persons who are impacted by extreme weather events and other climate impacts. The new system must preserve the human rights, health, safety, and dignity of all persons affected by climate-induced migration and displacement.
9. Make polluters pay: Investigate and prosecute fossil fuel polluters for the damages they have caused. Commit to veto all legislation that grants legal immunity for polluters, undermines existing environmental laws, or advances false solutions
- Direct the Attorney General to investigate all legal violations by fossil fuel polluters and prosecute them to the maximum extent of the law, including by supporting the “nuisance” and “fraud” suits brought by more than a dozen local and state governments against fossil fuel producers for the damages they have caused. Like asbestos, tobacco and opioid manufacturers, the fossil fuel industry had long-standing knowledge of the risks associated with their products; rather than taking steps to prevent climate change, the industry took action to conceal and deny that knowledge and discredit climate science, in contradiction to their own internal research and the actions they took to protect their assets from climate impacts.
- Commit to veto all legislation that grants legal immunity to polluters from nuisance and other climate claims, or that rolls back existing laws like the Clean Air Act, such as the “Baker-Shultz Carbon Dividend Plan” advanced by the oil-industry led Climate Leadership Council.
- Commit to reject and to veto all other false solutions proposed by the polluters that have created and perpetuated the climate crisis including:
- Market-based mechanisms and emissions trading schemes such as offsets which have proven both to be ineffective and to have harmful consequences, such as concentrating pollution in already overburdened environmental justice communities;
- Technology options such as carbon capture and storage and the use of captured carbon for enhanced oil recovery, which perpetuate fossil fuel extraction and create new public dangers;
- Biomass energy which increases carbon pollution per unit of energy and incentivizes clearcutting and other harmful forestry practices;
- Waste-to-energy which similarly does not reduce greenhouse pollution and increases dangerous air pollution, usually in already overburdened environmental justice communities; and
- Nuclear power which creates severe safety, health, proliferation, and waste disposal issues and is far more expensive than new clean and renewable energy. These corporate schemes all share the common characteristic that they place corporate profits over community well-being and perpetuate the many systemic injustices that have led to the climate emergency.
- 10. Rejoin the Paris Agreement and lead with science-based commitments that ensure that the United States, as the world’s largest cumulative historical emitter, contributes its fair share and advances climate justice
- Vastly increase the United States’ emissions reduction commitment (Nationally Determined Contribution) to slash U.S. greenhouse emissions below 2005 levels by at least 70% by 2030 and reduce them to near zero by 2040 — in line with what science, equity, and climate justice demand. Include deadlines to halt all oil, gas, and coal production in the U.S. commitment and ensure that future agreements set limits on fossil fuel production consistent with meeting the 1.5°C target.
- The actions in this report will form the backbone of the plan to achieve this commitment. However, because these domestic reductions alone are insufficient to fulfill the U.S. fair share of global climate action, the President must leverage their full executive authority and work with Congress to appropriate funds for large-scale financial and technological support to enable poorer countries to reduce their own emissions, as well as to support crucial adaptation measures so that vulnerable communities can survive the climate disruption already underway.