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Bullet policy · Feb 01, 2021

Biden Issues Series of Executive Orders on Science, Climate

Soon after taking office on January 20, 2021, President Joe Biden signed a myriad of Executive Orders pertaining to the ongoing pandemic, the climate crisis, and other science-related issues.

Biden signed an order stopping the U.S. withdrawal from the World Health Organization (WHO) and appointing Dr. Anthony Fauci as Head of the Delegation to the WHO. According to a White House statement, the Biden-Harris Administration will “work with the WHO and our partners to strengthen and reform the organization, support the COVID-19 health and humanitarian response, and advance global health and health security.”

Another order restores the National Security Council (NSC) Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense to “focus on domestic and global biological threats, play a critical role in stopping the COVID-19 pandemic, and prevent future biological catastrophes.” The order also creates the position of COVID-19 Response Coordinator, who will report to the President and coordinate “all elements of the COVID-19 response across government.”

He signed several orders to execute his COVID-19 response strategy focused on accelerating vaccinations, expanding testing and data collection, promoting wearing of masks, and expanding economic relief measures. A national security directive “to strengthen the international COVID-19 response and to advance global health security and biological preparedness” emphasized the Biden Administration’s priority to engage internationally to combat COVID-19 and called for developing a plan for establishing an interagency National Center for Epidemic Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics.

The President also took actions to launch a government-wide approach to addressing climate change. He issued an order requiring government environmental policies to be “guided by the best science” and to advance environmental justice. He directed agencies to review environmental regulations, orders, guidance documents, policies, and other agency actions undertaken during the Trump Administration that are “inconsistent” with Biden’s priorities, including rules regulating methane emissions and other air pollutants. He also initiated the process of rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement.

He signed orders establishing climate change as a national security priority, imposing a moratorium on new oil and natural gas leases on federal lands, and creating a National Climate Task Force to facilitate and deploy policies “to reduce climate pollution; increase resilience to the impacts of climate change; protect public health; conserve our lands, waters, oceans, and biodiversity; deliver environmental justice; and spur well-paying union jobs and economic growth.” Additionally, a new initiative called Justice40 would be established to provide recommendations to ensure that 40 percent of federal climate investments go to disadvantaged communities.

One of Biden’s orders aimed at tackling the climate crisis calls for committing to the goal of conserving at least 30 percent of all U.S. lands and oceans by 2030—an ambitious goal considering only 12 percent of lands and 23 percent of oceans are currently protected, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The Administration’s “30 by 30” goal has been applauded by conservation groups such as Center for Biological Diversity. The order also calls for the establishment of a Civilian Climate Corps Initiative focused on improving resiliency in communities across the country by training and mobilizing the next generation of conservation and resilience workers. Furthermore, the order directs the Secretary of Agriculture to collect input from farmers, ranchers, tribes, and other stakeholders on how to best use federal programs to “encourage the voluntary adoption of climate-smart agricultural and forestry practices.”

Biden revoked a number of President Trump’s Executive Orders, including a 2019 directive requiring federal agencies to eliminate “at least one-third” of their federal advisory panels created under the Federal Advisory Committee Act and an order creating a new “Schedule F” classification of federal workers, making it easier for the federal government to fire career staff. He also repealed a 2019 Trump order banning certain diversity, equity, and inclusion training programs across the federal government.