Jan 24, 2022
After campaigning on a historic climate and environmental agenda that went well beyond vowing to undo the Trump administration's damage, President Joe Biden had a disappointing first year in office, the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund concluded Monday.
"Biden's environmental agenda is at a precipice."
Following up on a "report card" released last July, six months into Biden's presidency, the nonprofit published another assessment of his administration's environmental record. In both cases, the group handed down a C- grade for "desperately needs improvement."
The new report warns that "Biden's environmental agenda is at a precipice, with his signature Build Back Better Act teetering dangerously." The House-approved bill has been held up in the Senate, where it needs support from every Democrat to pass.
Biden has "squandered his first year in office" by repeating former President Barack Obama's strategy of prioritizing legislation over executive action, according to the analysis.
The long-delayed legislative package isn't the administration's only failure, as the document details:
His administration has broken several key climate promises made during the campaign, including a foundational commitment to end all new offshore and onshore fossil fuel leasing on public lands and to halt fossil fuel subsidies.
Worse yet, the Biden administration is continuing to support fossil fuel extraction. From holding the largest lease sale in U.S. history in the Gulf of Mexico to support for additional coal mining on public lands, offshore drilling in Cook Inlet, and onshore drilling in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, the administration's climate change-fueling actions simply cannot be reconciled with its climate rhetoric.
Brett Hartl, the center's chief political strategist, said in a statement Monday that "breaking his promise to end new drilling on public lands and waters is a major breach of trust by the president
"President Biden said the right things when he took office, but he's walking away from more and more of his environmental promises," Hartl warned.
Overall, the group considered 25 key environmental pledges Biden made during the campaign. So far, his administration has broken two, the report says, but it is at risk of violating at least two more if the Build Back Better Act fails to pass.
"The Biden administration fully met six campaign promises and partially achieved four more goals," the report adds. "The administration still has yet to start any meaningful action to enact four campaign promises. Nine others are in progress, but it is too early to assess if they will be fully or partially achieved."
The document also blasts Biden's failure to address the damage done by former President Donald Trump's "devastating environmental rollbacks," noting that the past year has featured only 11 reversals and some progress on eight other policies.
"Of 50 key Trump administration actions that attacked our public lands, wildlife, and our ability to fight climate change and the scourges of pollution, the Biden administration has failed to take any action at all on 13 of those rollbacks," the report explains.
"Worse, the administration is supporting the previous administration's position on 12 other rollbacks," the assessment adds, "including supporting the Line 3 pipeline, the continued operation of the Dakota Access pipeline, the widespread use of highly toxic pesticides like atrazine and the construction of a disastrous road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge."
Hartl said that "it's hard to imagine how this administration can keep any other major promise when it's failed to address half of Trump's devastating attacks on the environment."
Noting the Covid-19 crisis that is still raging, the assessment also highlights that "despite the direct connection between the destruction of biodiversity and the spread of diseases that jump from wildlife to people... the Biden administration has failed to take a single meaningful action to address the root causes of such pandemics."
Along with outlining Biden's failures, the report features three detailed recommendations, calling on the administration to keep campaign promises, undo Trump-era rollbacks, and lock in "bold progress" on the intertwined climate and extinction crises.
"The administration needs a major course correction to make good on key environmental promises because the climate and extinction crises are getting more dire every day," according to Hartl, whose group plans to release another report in July.
"The climate crisis punishes every delay with greater disaster," he warned, "and the president has to get serious about preventing that now."
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