Despite the chaos in post-election politics of the United States, Joe Biden is the legitimate President-elect of the United States, and his climate change platform was an important factor in his victory. As his Transition team prepares for inauguration in January 2021, environmental and climate change groups are among those advocating for appointments and policies. Prominent among these: The Climate Mandate, a joint initiative of the Sunrise Movement and Justice Democrats . On November 11, Climate Mandate issued a statement saying: “We can unite our nation by solving the crises we have in common: COVID-19, climate change, systemic racism and an economic recession. Joe Biden must command the federal government with fierce urgency and bold creativity…. This is Biden’s FDR moment”. A top demand of the Climate Mandate movement: the creation of a Climate Mobilization Office – “with wide-reaching power to combat the climate crisis — just as we mobilized to defeat the existential threat of Nazi Germany in WWII.” The CMO “will convene and coordinate across the President’s Cabinet agencies and, ultimately, hold every federal department accountable to the national project of stopping climate change. The Office of Climate Mobilization will deeply embed this mission into all of our spending, regulations, policies, and actions.” Top picks suggested to lead the Climate Mobilization Office: Washington Governor Jay Inslee, Gina McCarthy , now Head of the Natural Resources Defence Council and former head of the Environmental Protection Agency, or John Podesta, founder of the American Center for Progress and a counsellor to President Obama and Chief of Staff to President Clinton.
Other names which appear in the Climate Mandate wish list include Bernie Sanders , their top pick for Secretary of Labor; environmental justice champion Mustafa Santiago Ali to lead the Environmental Protection Agency; and two union officials: Mary Kay Henry, International President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), as an alternate choice for Secretary of Labor, and Sara Nelson, International President of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA as a second choice for Secretary of Transportation.
The Climate 21 Project is a second group with proposals for Joe Biden. A group of more than 150 people, Climate 21 Project is co-chaired by Christy Goldfuss, a former Obama official and now with the Center for American Progress, and Tim Profeta, director of the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University. The Summary of their Recommendations regarding the transition is here , accompanied by eleven memos for each of the relevant departments and agencies .
Finally, Greenpeace USA released its Just Recovery Agenda on November 17, directed at Joe Biden. Broader than climate and environmental issues, “the Just Recovery Agenda includes more than 100 concrete policy recommendations spanning both legislation and executive action aimed at creating a world in which everyone has a good life and where our fundamental needs — including dignified work, healthcare, education, housing, clean air and water, healthy food, and more — are met.” Detailed policy proposals are here .
Here are a few general reactions and assessments of the climate future since Biden’s election: “Initial Thoughts on the Impact of the 2020 Federal Elections on National Climate Policy“ by Joel Stronberg (Nov. 5); “Election likely hardens political limits of Biden climate agenda” by Amy Harder in Axios (Nov. 5); “State Climate Leadership Is Coming to the Nation’s Capital in 2021” in a Center for American Progress blog (Nov. 9) and “How Joe Biden plans to use executive powers to fight climate change” in Vox (Nov. 9); and “Trump Rolled Back 100+ Environmental Rules. Biden May Focus on Undoing Five of the Biggest Ones” in Inside Climate News (Nov. 17) .
Canada greets Joe Biden and his climate plans
The National Observer maintained a Special Report section about the U.S. election, including an overview of reactions in “Ottawa welcomes president-elect Joe Biden as climate fight ally” (Nov. 9) -including comments from politicians (Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson and former Minister Catherine McKenna, as well as Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, and New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs ) along with policy experts Blair Feltmate and Sara Hastings-Simon. A good summary of the most important climate issues appears in “The Biden presidency could change the terms of the climate debate in Canada” by Aaron Wherry at CBC (Nov. 10).
In “Five ways the Biden presidency could change Canadian climate policy for the better” in CCPA’s Behind the Numbers (Nov. 12), Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood gives an overview, stating:
“For the past four years, a recalcitrant U.S. administration provided cover for Canadian politicians to water down and delay climate policies. With Biden in the White House, the situation may be reversed. Even if the new president only achieves a portion of his ambitious climate agenda, Canada risks falling behind in the transition to a net-zero carbon economy. …. Biden’s plan could energize Canada’s international climate agenda, could accelerate the growth of Canada’s clean economy, curb fossil fuel infrastructure, strengthen Canada’s carbon pricing system, and strengthen Canadian environmental regulations.”
Whether Canada can compete with U.S. clean technology industry if the U.S. starts to ramp up its spending is a topic raised in “Biden’s victory raises the clean growth stakes for Canada” (Nov. 7) by Sara Hastings-Simon and Rachel Samson of the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices. In “What Joe Biden’s Climate plan means for Canada” in The Conversation (Nov. 12), Robert O’Brien of McMaster University focuses on the prospects for the oil and gas industry and the Keystone XL pipeline, flowing from Biden’s remark that “I would transition from the oil industry, yes.” O’Brien considers the implications for Indigenous communities, workers and communities in that transition. Will Greaves of University of Victoria focuses on the oil and gas industry and protection of the Arctic in “What a Biden Presidency means for Climate Change and Canada” in Policy Options (Nov. 10) .
Another analysis, from a trade perspective, appears in Behind the Numbers : “Biden’s Buy American Plan should inspire – not scare – Canada” (Oct 25) . Author Scott Sinclair argues that Buy American policies are not likely to go away, and if you can’t beat ‘em, you should learn from them. “ Canadians can no longer afford to disregard or neglect considerable potential of government purchasing for job creation, improved working conditions and environmentally sustainable development. Given our current trade treaty constraints, ambitious “Buy Sustainable” purchasing policies offer the best way forward for Canadian workers and the environment.”