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Biden Administration Announces Major Actions on Climate and the Environment

The Biden administration announced a series of historic actions to address the climate emergency and restore environmental protections

For months, the Biden-Harris campaign promised to deliver bold change from the policies of the Trump administration. Now, on the day Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States, his administration has announced a series of executive actions to address national priorities, including climate change, environmental protection and racial equity.

What does this dizzying set of executive orders, directives and memoranda mean for our coasts and ocean? Here’s an overview of some of the most relevant actions, as well as next steps that our federal leaders must take to protect our coastal environment. To learn more about Surfrider’s federal priorities under the Biden administration please visit our Coastal Blog.
Rejoin the Paris Agreement on Climate Change
The President informed the United Nations that the U.S. will rejoin the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, following the Trump administration’s decision to depart. The agreement commits the U.S. to significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, while positioning our nation to exercise global leadership in responding to the climate emergency. Achieving such emissions reductions, however, will require much additional action from the White House and federal agencies including elements outlined in the Biden-Harris climate plan. It will also require leadership from Congress to pass legislation such as the Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act, that will help transition the U.S. to a 100% clean energy economy.

Restore Environmental Protections
The Biden administration announced plans to restore environmental and public health protections rolled back under the Trump administration. The President signed an executive order that directs federal agencies to immediately review and address regulations and actions taken during the last four years that were “harmful to public health, damaging to the environment, unsupported by the best available science, or otherwise not in the national interest.” This provides a critical window to reverse decisions on approved oil and gas projects and restore Clean Water Act protections that were removed under the Trump administration’s ‘Dirty Water Rule’. The order also addresses environmental justice by directing agencies to account for impacts on low-income and underserved communities.  

Protect National Monuments and Refuges
Under the Trump administration, several iconic national monuments and refuges were reduced in size or had protections removed. In response, the Biden administration has directed the Department of Interior to protect our nation’s treasures by reviewing the boundaries and conditions of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine Monument and other national monuments impacted under the Trump administration. The Biden administration also placed a temporary moratorium on all oil and natural gas leasing activities in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Stay tuned for upcoming public comment opportunities to support federal protected areas and oppose new oil and gas leasing.

While today’s announcements by the Biden administration are highly encouraging, there is an enormous amount of work to be done in the coming months and years. The Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks run deep, and sustained commitment from our federal leaders and agencies will be needed to restore these protections. Moreover, our planet is mired in a climate emergency that demands immediate action on an unprecedented scale.

The Surfrider Foundation is committed to advancing strong protections for our coasts and ocean through federal campaigns that engage our chapters, clubs, supporters and partners. This year, Surfrider has prioritized climate change, plastic pollution and clean water as our top issues for federal action. To learn more please see our blog post: The Next Four Years and visit our Take Action page to make your voice heard!