Coastal resilience, environmental justice key pieces of Biden’s climate Executive Order
By Daniel Hayden
Last week, President Biden signed a sweeping Executive Order aimed at tackling the climate crisis, with a focus on addressing injustice, rebuilding our economy, and restoring environmental integrity across government.
Public opinion overwhelmingly supports these measures. A recent PEW Research poll found that 2/3 of Americans think that climate change is a crisis that must be addressed urgently. Additionally, 79% of Americans say the priority for the country should be developing alternative sources of energy.
A return to data-driven decision-making based on robust and rigorous examinations of science, facts, and responsibility will have transformational implications for the well-being and vitality of Americans and our treasured ecosystems.
RAE and our partner organizations have long recognized the importance our coastal regions play in keeping global temperatures from rising above 1.5 degrees Celsius and adapting to climate impacts today. Healthy, intact estuaries and seagrasses store massive amounts of carbon and are essential in the fight against sea level rise and ocean acidification. When healthy, oceans play a key role in absorbing carbon and regulating climate.
Sea level rise due to increased temperatures and melting ice caps isn’t just a threat to tourism and recreation here in the United States. Our ports, naval bases, and shipping canals are increasingly vulnerable to these persistent and worsening climate impacts. This newly honed focus on the national security implications of climate change will further underscore the need for sustainable development and management of coastal ecosystems.
The executive orders looks to reestablish American diplomacy in responding to the climate crisis. Rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement on day one was a strong start for the Biden/Harris Administration. It also underlines the importance of protecting critical ecosystems, like wetlands, abroad in our overseas development aid.
Domestically, the Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad laid out key policies and actions the U.S. will take moving forward to protect our precious coastal ecosystems, including:
- Protecting and restoring coastal ecosystems such as wetlands, seagrasses, coral and oyster reefs, and mangrove and kelp forests to protect vulnerable coastlines, sequester carbon, and protect vital fisheries (Sec. 214)
- 30 x 30 –Ordered the Departments of Interior, Commerce and USDA to conserve 30% of land and water by 2030 (Sec. 216)
- More equitably sharing decision-making and benefits with marginalized communities through the Justice40 Initiative – 40% of net-benefits from federal investments must go to marginalized communities to ensure environmental justice (Sec. 223)
In addition to this EO, President Biden reinstated the federal flood risk management standard in another order from January 20th. In doing so, development areas vulnerable to flooding, like coastal wetlands, will be examined to include future climate impacts and development actions will need to respond accordingly. This is especially important to marginalized communities that bear the brunt of these climate impacts.
The impressive scope and pace of the Biden/Harris administration plans to tackle the climates crisis is promising. However, much of what they’ve accomplished thus far has been remediation from the last four years.
In order to meet our climate goals, we must ensure these Executive Orders result in real-life benefits for every American and that their effectiveness carries on after this administration leaves office.
RAE and our partners look forward to working with the administration, members of Congress, and the agencies to turn these Executive Orders into law and seeing their implementation pay dividends in the short and long term.
President & CEO
Restore America’s Estuaries