Last month, President Biden marked his second year in office. As a candidate, he often discussed the need to take on climate change head-on. In October 2020, the then candidate-Biden said it was the “number one issue facing humanity.”
Since taking office, how has he done turning campaign rhetoric into governing reality? Where has President Biden been a success and where has he come up short in the fight against climate change?
To answer these questions, a diverse group of academics and activists were asked to rate his performance on a scale of one to ten and explain why they think he deserves that score. Opinions from a cross-section of fields including law, politics, advocacy, and public policy were sampled. Collectively, they bring decades of experience from their respective fields and address climate change on a variety of different fronts. As a group, they see Biden’s successes, most notably the passage of the Inflation Reduction, but vary in their view of how much work he still has to do on the issue.
Here are their full responses:
- Mark Campanale, Carbon Tracker Founder and Director: “I think the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is a huge part of Biden’s legacy, so he deserves 8/10. He would have got a nine if he could have figured out the international trade implications of it first though, and a 10 if he abandoned further U.S. oil, gas, and coal development.”
- Tzeporah Berman, Chair for the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative and Stand.Earth International Program Director, (6/10): “The Biden administration undermines its own climate credentials with blatant inconsistencies, not least following their pleas for ‘every nation to do its part’ at the Glasgow UN climate summit with an announcement to hold the nation’s largest-ever auction for oil drilling rights. To be a true climate leader, this administration must tackle the largest driver of the climate crisis – fossil fuels – in a way that is fair, fast, and financed while also offering meaningful support to other fossil fuel-producing countries. This means closing the door left open in its landmark Inflation Reduction Act for new oil and gas leasing by the federal government as well as canceling deadly fossil fuel expansion projects.”
- Michael Gerrard, Director, Sabin Center for Climate Change Law Columbia Law School (7/10): “The IRA, Infrastructure Legislation, CHIPS Act, and Kigali ratification are remarkable achievements. No prior president has had such success with Congress in climate action. Biden’s appointments to environmental positions in the White House, EPA, and other agencies have been excellent, though the confirmation process for some of them has been very slow. My major concern is the slowness of the process in finalizing new regulations, though much of it no doubt results from being cautious in dotting all i’s and crossing all t’s. The inability to reappoint Rick Glick as FERC chair is a major disappointment.”
- Dena Adler, Research Scholar at Institute for Policy Integrity at NYU School of Law, (Incomplete): “Many anticipated actions have been delayed amid an evolving judicial landscape and legislative developments that bear influence on regulatory design. The administration recently rolled out an updated regulatory agenda with many actions scheduled for release over the next year, which we have not yet had the chance to evaluate. This year will be a critical period for the administration to propose and finalize regulations as well as implement the IRA.”
- Natalie Bennett, Green member of the UK House of Lords (4/10): “President Biden has shifted the debate and created a framework for a technological shift towards renewables and away from fossil fuels. But he is still nowhere near signing up to the Fossil Fuel Non-proliferation Treaty, and not even heading in the direction of social innovation, transforming the economic systems built on the exploitation of people and nature, inequality and environmental destruction.”
The next two years
So where do go from here? For the rest of his term climate change will be a problem for President Biden to confront on multiple levels. However, the administration will do so facing a different political reality since the November election. Republican control of the US House of Representatives means it is unlikely we will see legislative action on climate change and administration proposals will face more scrutiny.
While new bills may not be coming his way, that does not mean the White House can ride out the next two years. If President Biden is serious about taking on climate change he should focus on implementing the climate provisions in the Infrastructure Bill and IRA and getting the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission to roll out climate risk disclosure requirements. Whether or not he succeeds at these, and other Executive Branch actions will greatly impact how we view Biden’s work on climate change when we the end of his presidential term in January 2025.
The photo was taken by Anthony Quintano from Westminster, United States. The use of his work is not meant to indicate that he supports this piece or our work.