Biden's Climate Wins in 2021

President Biden's climate wins in 2021

The start of a new year is always a good moment to look back while looking ahead. While 2021 did not end with news that the $1.7 trillion Build Back Better package had passed through Congress, it was still one of the most significant years for government action on climate. Whether it was rejoining the Paris Agreement, or building an Administration with climate leaders from WW0 Founder Secretary Kerry to Our Daily Planet Founder Assistant Secretary Monica Medina, the Administration made clear that climate was a renewed priority. In their first year in office the Biden Administration made at least five major moves when it comes to climate:

1. An end to money for fossil fuels abroad: Government agencies will not fund any fossil fuel projects in other countries, putting an end to years when billions of dollars flowed to build overseas oil and gas infrastructure.

2. Government commitment of net zero by 2050: By executive order, the federal government is directed to hit net-zero emissions by midcentury. In practice, that means actions like swapping diesel for electric cars in the federal fleet and getting federal buildings off of fossil fuels for energy and heat.

3. Reversing Trump-era light standards: The Trump Administration rolled back lighting efficiency standards. At the end of last year, the Biden Administration moved to restore a minimum 45 lumens per watt for lightbulbs -- a simple energy-saving standard.

4. Appointing new EPA Regional Administrators: In another course correction from the past four years, the Biden Administration is filling the EPA's regional positions with candidates focused on environmental justice.

5. The bill that did pass: In November, the $1 trillion infrastructure bill became law, ushering in $126 billion in new transportation spending over the next five years, including unprecedented investments in electric vehicle infrastructure, climate resilience, and taking down highways that racially divided communities and perpetuated environmental racism.

Why This Matters

While the currently stuck Build Back Better package would fund necessary climate investments, it's not the only piece of climate action from the past year. As Inside Climate News writes, the administration is treating the infrastructure bill as "an important down payment on the more comprehensive climate policy," and other policies will also build toward a better climate future, even if the scope and scale remains limited.

2021's progress really matters because the opportunity window for future climate action may only be narrowing: the results of this November's midterm elections will determine if a pro-climate action majority continues to hold onto Congress for the remainder of President Biden's term.

The Outlook From Texas

2021 was a dramatic year for energy policy in Texas, including February's winter storm that left millions of people without heat in frigid temperatures.

Looking at the fluctuations of oil price and supply through the year, Houston Chronicle Correspondent Dan Graeber concludes "that duality -- the quest for more oil to keep the economy moving while simultaneously pushing for low-carbon alternatives -- was a running theme for 2021."