Addressing climate change is the focus of one of the Biden administration’s latest executive orders, which pauses new oil and gas leasing on public lands or offshore waters, seeks to more than double the amount of land conserved in the United States, and looks to involve the agriculture sector in the federal government’s efforts.

It directs the Agriculture Department “to collect input from farmers, ranchers, and other stakeholders on how to use federal programs to encourage adoption of climate-smart agricultural practices that produce verifiable carbon reductions and sequestrations and create new sources of income and jobs for rural Americans,” according to a fact sheet released by the White House.

“When we think of renewable energy … we see farmers making American agriculture first in the world to achieve net zero emissions and gaining new sources of income in the process,” President Joe Biden said Wednesday at the White House.

“The order also calls for the establishment of a Civilian Climate Corps Initiative to put a new generation of Americans to work conserving and restoring public lands and waters, increasing reforestation, increasing carbon sequestration in the agricultural sector, protecting biodiversity, improving access to recreation, and addressing the changing climate,” the fact sheet said.

The Interior Department is being directed “to pause new oil and natural gas leasing on public lands and offshore waters, concurrent with a comprehensive review of the federal oil and gas program,” DOI said in a fact sheet.

In addition, DOI said it will “identify steps to accelerate responsible development of renewable energy on public lands and waters, including setting a goal to double renewable energy production from offshore wind by 2030. The department will immediately begin a review of processes and procedures to date as it re-invests in a rigorous renewable energy program.”

Biden is calling on a “whole-of-government approach to the climate crisis,” including the establishment of a White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy, which creates “a central office in the White House that is charged with coordinating and implementing the President’s domestic climate agenda,” the White House said. The executive order also sets up a National Climate Task Force, which will include leaders from across 21 federal agencies and departments.

The order seeks to conserve 30% of U.S. lands and oceans by 2030 “and launches a process for stakeholder engagement from agricultural and forest landowners, fishermen, Tribes, states, territories, local officials, and others to identify strategies that will result in broad participation,” the White House said.

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“The U.S. Geological Survey reports that only 12% of lands are permanently protected,” Interior said. “Studies show that roughly 23% of America’s ocean is currently strongly protected, with the vast majority of ocean protections found in the western Pacific Ocean.”

The administration will work toward the 30x30 goal “by supporting local, state, private, and tribally led nature conservation and restoration efforts that are underway across America,” Interior said. The department “will consider ways to achieve more equitable access to nature and its benefits for all people in America.”

On environmental justice, the order “creates a government-wide Justice40 Initiative with the goal of delivering 40 percent of the overall benefits of relevant federal investments to disadvantaged communities and tracks performance toward that goal through the establishment of an Environmental Justice Scorecard.”

In addition, “The order formalizes President Biden’s commitment to make environmental justice a part of the mission of every agency by directing federal agencies to develop programs, policies, and activities to address the disproportionate health, environmental, economic, and climate impacts on disadvantaged communities,” the White House said.

Biden also addressed scientific integrity by signing a Presidential Memorandum “to send a clear message that the Biden-Harris Administration will protect scientists from political interference and ensure they can think, research, and speak freely to provide valuable information and insights to the American people,” according to the White House.

“In addition, agencies that oversee, direct, or fund research are tasked with designating a senior agency employee as Chief Science Officer to ensure agency research programs are scientifically and technologically well founded and conducted with integrity,” the White House said. 

Environmental groups praised the climate order. Biden used his authority "to affirm what scientists have been saying for decades: climate change is not a distant crisis but rather one that has already reached our doorstep and can no longer be ignored,” said Angela Ledford Anderson, director of the climate and energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Its fingerprints are everywhere in the form of more intense hurricanes; a longer wildfire season; and worsening heat, floods and drought.”  

The National Pork Producers Council also issued a response, saying it “supports a number of efforts to increase efficiency efforts and further reduce our climate footprint, including:

  • “voluntary, incentive-based tools to maximize the sequestration of carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions.
  • “public and private sector tools to incentivize farmers to prioritize and scale climate-smart practices.
  • “incentives supporting the capture of valuable nutrients from on-farm manure and recycling it as a locally produced natural fertilizer and soil conditioner.
  • “incentives related to biogas capture from manure management systems and the associated infrastructure required to bring it to market.
  • “incentives for farmers to reduce energy consumption, increase use of on-farm renewable energy and make continued progress toward reducing the lifecycle GHG emissions of agriculture and forestry-based renewable energy.”

But the order was panned from some on Capitol Hill, who expressed concern about the ramifications of the order for American energy production. 

“Despite all the hot air from climate alarmists, banning new oil, gas, and coal leases on federal land and waters will do nothing to address climate change. Energy producers will simply go elsewhere - likely out of state or overseas," Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said in a statement. "The president’s order will deprive thousands of people in Wyoming of their jobs and a principal source of revenue for public education and other essential services. If President Biden is serious about bringing our country together, he needs to understand that actions speak louder than words.”

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