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Climate activists gathered outside the CNN studios in New York, where a Town Hall on Climate Policy was held on September 4, 2019.

Climate activists gathered outside the CNN studios in New York, where a Town Hall on Climate Policy was held on September 4, 2019. The activists demanded that leading Democratic presidential candidates commit to meaningful climate action. (Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket/Getty Images)

Groups Provide Biden With Draft Climate Emergency Order to Help Put Out 'Fire Fanned by Trump'

The president-elect "must take bold action the moment he steps into the Oval Office, without punting to a dysfunctional Congress."

Andrea Germanos

President-elect Joe Biden must swiftly move once in office to "avert the climate emergency" with a series of actions to ensure the nation invests in "a just, clean, distributed, and democratic energy system that works for all."

That's the demand Wednesday from over 380 groups who've sent Biden a draft executive order (pdf) that details how, exercising executive authority, he can rein in greenhouse gas emissions and safeguard the environment while boosting jobs and community wellbeing.

"There's no time to lose."
—Kassie Siegel, Center for Biological Diversity
The new effort was convened by organizations including the Center for Biological Diversity and the Indigenous Environmental Network and is backed by a diverse collection of hundreds of state and national groups including Fire Drill Fridays, Breast Cancer Action, the National Family Farm Coalition, and the Sunrise Movement. International organizations including the Center for International Environmental Law and Global Witness are also listed as supporters.

President Donald Trump's outgoing administration, said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity's Climate Law Institute and one of the key authors of the order, has taken a wrecking ball to the climate—making efforts to address the global crisis even more urgent.

"Our house is ablaze with a fire fanned by Trump for four years," Siegel said in a statement. "There's no time to lose. Biden must take bold action the moment he steps into the Oval Office, without punting to a dysfunctional Congress."

"This order," Siegel added, "is the road map for Biden to be the climate president we need."

The first of the actions laid out is Biden declaring a National Climate Emergency, thus acknowledging the crisis "poses an existential threat to every aspect of society."

"We must transform our extractive economy to a regenerative and inclusive one, in a manner that dismantles systemic racism and advances environmental, racial, and economic justice," says the draft order.

Biden must tap the Environmental Protection Agency administrator with enacting standards under the Clean Air Act to limit greenhouse gases and set regulations to "achieve the maximum possible pollution reductions."

Automotive standards must also be renewed so that all new cars are zero emission "by no later than 2030."

The order would also ban new fossil fuel infrastructure, declaring such projects "incompatible with limiting warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius," the more ambitious target of the Paris climate accord. Other, non-fossil fuel projects' impacts on the climate crisis must also be taken into consideration when federal approval is required.

Biden's executive actions must further include an immediate ban on fracking on public lands. He must also kick-start an environmental review of the extraction process that ends with a full ban, unless it's proven that damage from fracking has been eliminated, and that fracking is compatible with achieving the 1.5 degrees of warming threshold and slashing "greenhouse emissions by 70% by 2030 and to near zero by 2040."

 "He can't lose unless he goes back to business as usual."
—Joe Uehlein, Labor Network for Sustainability
In addition to reinstating the ban on crude oil exports, the order calls for Biden to tap the Defense Production Act to "mobilize the domestic production of clean and renewable energy under project labor agreements to defend the country against the climate emergency while creating millions of family-sustaining jobs and spurring the nation's clean energy export market."

Alongside that action, the Pentagon must divert funds toward "construction of clean and renewable energy, battery storage, and smart grid infrastructure projects on military and government-owned properties, including electric vehicle charging stations at every U.S. Post Office."

Climate solutions must also be funded, the order says, which necessitates no federal funding of fossil fuel projects.

A Just Transition Council, made up of a broad range of stakeholders, would also be established under the order. That body would support workers and communities on the front lines of the fossil fuel industry. And to more fully address environmental justice, the order would have the federal government actively mitigate environmental harms to communities and fairly address climate refugees.

Beyond merely rejoining the Paris agreement, the order calls for a new nationally determined contribution (NDC) of greenhouse gas emissions that reflects a slashing of at least 70% below 2005 levels by 2030, and for financial backing of developing countries' efforts to reduce their planet-warming emissions.

Joe Uehlein, founding president of the Labor Network for Sustainability, called the order "a jobs plan as much as a climate plan."

"Biden can address the climate emergency and create thousands of good-paying union jobs in the process," said Uehlein. "He can't lose unless he goes back to business as usual."

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