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Build Back Better: President Biden's Climate Plan

As you may have seen in the news, President Biden is taking urgent actions to combat the looming effects of climate change. After his inaugural ceremony, the President immediately signed executive orders that allow the U.S. to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement and reverse former President Trump’s approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The climate order that cancels Keystone XL also aims to restore over 100 environmental regulations that were either upended or undermined by the previous administration. Both climate orders are crucial because (1) reinstating America’s position in the Paris Agreement will put the country back in track in tackling global climate change along with other nations, (2) cancelling the expansion of the Keystone XL pipeline into the U.S. will protect ecological areas and sources of drinking water from potential oil spills, (3) revoking the Keystone XL pipeline provides a great relief to the indigenous and native tribes along the areas (e.g. Montana and South Dakota), who viewed the pipeline as an extension of the racial, environmental and social injustices [they] have suffered, and (4) restoring environmental policies protect many natural habitats and their species, particularly those that are endangered.

Illustration of Biden’s climate plan. Sourced from USA TODAY.

Signing the two climate orders is a huge step; however, these are not the only plans that President Biden has in line with regards to climate change. The President has a vast climate plan called Build Back Better, which aims to create the jobs needed in building and maintaining a more sustainable environment and providing a secure workforce for U.S. citizens. His administration’s ambitious plans involve both short-and/or long-term investments in major sectors such as the following:

Infrastructure—protection against existing climate threats (e.g. floods, hurricanes, and wildfires) which are increasing in frequency and severity. Biden plans to build modern infrastructures, such as smart roads and water systems, that can withstand existing climate threats and overall serve as a great foundation for a more efficient and more sustainable movement of people and resources.

Flooded neighborhood in Missouri in 2019. Photograph by Scott Olson/Getty Images. Sourced from Vox.

Buildings and Housing—construction of sustainable buildings and homes to decrease the country’s carbon footprint and support many low-income communities who suffer from poor housing conditions and increasing household expenses. The President intends to upgrade 4 million buildings and weatherize 2 million homes during his first term. This plan includes setting new standards for buildings and housing units, electrifying appliances, and reimagining home features, such as windows, to increase their efficiency and decrease household expenses.

Auto Industry—transition to renewable energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. With the Build Back Better plan, President Biden promises to install 500,000 new charging stations for electric vehicles, which would greatly benefit electric utility and electric car companies. Biden also plans to adopt Senator Chuck Schumer’s cash-for-clunkers program, which gives businesses and consumers some incentives for manufacturing and buying a lower-emissions vehicle, respectively.

Environmental Conservation—mobilization of conservation and resilience workers through a Civilian Climate Corps, who will work on environmental conservation along with scientists and land managers, to address the effects of climate change. This plan includes putting people to work in restoring natural habitats (e.g., wetlands and mangroves), planting trees, managing forests, improving habitat corridors, and overall supporting biodiversity.

It is important to understand that climate change disproportionately affects vulnerable groups such women, children, the poor, the elderly, and people of color. Climate change can cause hotter heat waves that make more ozone, which is a toxic gas that is particularly harmful for children and pregnant women.

Indigenous tribes and environmentalists protest against the Keystone XL pipeline in Washington in 2017. Photograph by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters. Sourced from The Guardian.

The Biden administration is taking bold steps in fighting climate change and its existing threats, but there is no quick or easy solution. After all, the President faces other major challenges such as limiting the spread of COVID-19 and gaining Congressional support and funding. Build Back Better has ambitious goals that may take years, even decades, to achieve. However, the administration’s climate plan can only succeed if everyone does their part in rethinking, restoring, improving, and maintaining our natural environment. As individuals, there are many things we can do now to support the President’s climate plan—becoming an advocate of environmental conservation, restoration, and management is one of them. By supporting environmental organizations such as OC Habitats, you can be part of the solution through volunteering or other much needed contributions and we will work together in combating climate change.

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