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Biden’s work of making America green again

26th Feb 2021
Biden’s work of making America green again

Deb Haaland is nominated as US Secretary of the Interior, she is first Native American to hold a cabinet position in US history. (Photo credit: @HolocaustMuseum/CC)

Donald Trump’s presidency was unconventional in several ways, but as the world appeared to be taking climate change more seriously, his contempt for environmental safeguards was particularly contrarian.

Soon after assuming office, Trump removed the US from the Paris Climate Accord. He then opened up protected lands to mining, logging, and drilling interests, relaxed vehicle emissions standards, and kept ‘threatened species’ off the Endangered Species List.

Trump rose to prominence for being a savvy businessman. He often created a narrative that equated environmental protections with a poor economy.

Newly elected US President, Joe Biden, is seeking to reverse many of Trump’s policies regarding emissions standards, wildlife protection, water pollution and chemical safety. On day one of his presidency, the new POTUS signed an executive order rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, to the delight of many world leaders who had felt disheartened by the US’s departure from the accord.

Some of Trump’s policies will take longer to reverse than others, as they must go through the legislative process, while others Biden can change via executive orders. The damage that the former President inflicted on US environmental policies, particularly those from Obama’s era, like the Clean Power Plan, will endure for years to come.

According to the Washington Post, “Four Obama-era regulations were nullified under the Congressional Review Act, which prevents the introduction of a new rule that is ‘substantially the same’ as what had been replaced, making

Trump’s actions particularly hard to reverse.”
More than just reversing Trump-era policies, Biden has already introduced some policies of his own. He is making climate change a national security priority, mandating that government vehicles be emissions-free, urging the Secretary of Agriculture to devise a climate-smart farming and forestry plan, and instructing the Secretary of the Treasury account for climate risk in both foreign and domestic finance decisions.

Nominations to key positions

Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) nominee, Michael Regan, would if confirmed, be the first person of colour to hold the office.

Scientists and environmentalists are delighted about the choice as Regan has experience working in the EPA and more recently standing up to chemical and energy companies as the leader of North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality. After years of ethically questionable, fossil fuel-friendly EPA administrators under Trump, Regan will be a welcome, qualified leader.

The newly elected president’s nominee for Interior Secretary, a position that deals with the conservation of federal lands and waterways, is Representative Deb Haaland, a Native-American, representing New Mexico in the House of Representatives.

If confirmed, it will be a major win for Indigenous Americans, who have never held cabinet-level positions in the federal government. According to the Brookings Institute, Haaland “supported efforts at Standing Rock to preserve tribal sovereignty and protect the natural resources threatened by the proposed oil pipeline in 2016.”

The Interior Secretary often deals with powerful interest groups who resist repatriating tribal lands, so her confirmation could make her one of the most progressive voices to hold the position.

There are many positions that Trump never filled, or had moved, causing valuable talent to resign. The US Geological Survey, US Department of Agriculture, and the Fish and Wildlife Service lost hundreds of staff members, causing many jobs to be left undone. President Biden is showing where his priorities lie in his nominations and his requests for better funding of scientific institutions within the federal government.

Truth after Trump

One of Trump’s most worrying legacies is that he left America in the post-truth era.

The former President was much more concerned with optics than honesty in every aspect of his presidency — from overestimating his inaugural crowd to playing down the coronavirus. In an attempt to reduce access to information, he even directed federal organisations to remove extensive climate research from federal websites, which left independent researchers scrambling to save the data before it was erased.

The Biden Administration is very meticulous in its attempts to restore trust in the Government. One week after the inauguration, the White House issued a Memorandum on Restoring Trust in Government Through Scientific Integrity and Evidence-based Policymaking.

It stated, in part, “Scientific and technological information, data, and evidence are central to the development and iterative improvement of sound policies, and to the delivery of equitable programs, across every area of Government. Scientific findings should never be distorted or influenced by political considerations.”

Reinstating stricter environmental standards to get the US closer to a lower carbon future and restoring trust in the Government after the dissemination of falsehoods from the highest levels of leadership, will take time and vigilance.

Sarah Sakeena Marshall,
Grit Daily Staff Writer, The Muslim News Environmental Columnist.

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