Presidential Executive Order 14008, “Tackling the Climate Crisis,” a long and unusually detailed Executive Order published in the Federal Register on February 1, 2021 (see 86 FR 7619), has generated considerable discussion and commentary. Below, I briefly outline its provisions.
This EO describes the “climate crisis” in existential terms:
“There is little time left to avoid setting the world on a dangerous, potentially catastrophic climate trajectory.” Confronting and combating climate change will be an important component of American foreign policy and national security, and domestically, the federal government’s resources will be mobilized to deploy a “govern-wide approach to the climate crisis.”
Part I of EO 14008 states that climate considerations will be an essential element of United States foreign policy and national security. The only effective response is to obtain short-term global reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and net-zero global emissions by mid-century. A Special Presidential Envoy for Climate has been established, and this office will work with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of State on a climate finance plan that, among other things, will “promote the flow of capital towards climate-aligned investments and away for high-carbon investments.” The Secretary of Homeland Security will consider the implications of climate change “along our Nation’s borders,” and the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman if the Joint Chiefs of Staff will consider the national security implications of climate change.
Part II is devoted to the implications of climate change for domestic policy. Again, the policy is being driven by a climate crisis that threatens “our ability to live on Planet Earth.” The overarching goals are to:
- strengthen our clean air and water protections;
- hold polluters accountable;
- deliver environmental justice in communities all across America;
- and drive the assessment, disclosure and mitigation of climate pollution and climate-related risks in every sector of our economy.
Consequently, it is the policy of the new Administration to organize and deploy the full capacities for Federal agencies to combat the climate crisis to reduce climate pollution, increase resilience, deliver environmental justice and spur the increase of well-paying union jobs. The White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy and the National Climate Task Force have been established by this Order. The Federal Government’s Buying Power and Real Property and Asset Management functions will be used to support “robust” climate action. Renewable Energy on Public Lands and Offshore waters will be emphasized, and the Secretary of the Interior was directed to “pause,” consistent with applicable law, new oil and gas leases on public lands and in offshore waters, pending the completion of a comprehensive review of existing permitting practices, which will include an assessment of potential climate change impacts.
Each affected Federal agency will develop and submit to the Task Force a draft action plan regarding the steps an agency can take to increase resilience to the effects of climate change on facilities subject to its jurisdiction. The Chair of the CEQ and the Director of OMB will take steps, consistent with applicable law, to ensure the federal infrastructure investment reduces climate pollution, and will require federal permitting agencies to consider the effects of greenhouse gases and climate change. American farmers also have an important role to play by reducing their greenhouse emissions and using their properties to sequester carbon in soils, grasses and other vegetation. The Secretary of the Interior is directed to develop a strategy by which a “Civilian Climate Corps can be created. This EO disfavors fossil fuel subsidies, and such subsidies are not to be included in future budget requests. The Secretary of the Interior will submit to the Task Force the steps that can be taken to conserve “at least 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030,” and includes guidelines which can be used to decide whether specific waters and lands qualify for conservation. An interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization has been established to address the issues created by a shift clean energy economy.
Another issue of importance to the new Administration is “environmental and economic justice.” Agencies will make achieving environmental justice an important part of their missions. The White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council has been established, as well as an Environmental Justice Interagency Council, which will be chaired by the head of CEQ. The Council will develop “clear performance metrics” to measure the success of the new program. A White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council is established and will be housed within EPA. Both EPA and the Attorney have specified roles in strengthening environmental enforcement in unserved communities; indeed, it is recommended that the Environmental and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice be renamed the Environmental Justice and Natural Resources Division.
EO 14008 also discusses the “Justice 40 initiative,” the goal of which is that 40 percent of federal “overall benefits” flow to disadvantaged communities. Finally, an Environmental Justice Scorecard will be published on an annual basis.
In Review: SCOTUS Environmental and Administrative Decisions in the 2020 Term