Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

KPBS Evening Edition

New President Gives Environmentalists Hope For Planet's Future

Andrew Panganibgan and Hollie Yang take in some sunshine overlooking the ocean in San Diego, Sept. 18, 2015.
Associated Press
Andrew Panganibgan and Hollie Yang take in some sunshine overlooking the ocean in San Diego, Sept. 18, 2015.

New President Gives Environmentalists Hope For Planet's Future
Listen to this story by Erik Anderson.

Environmentalists are encouraged by the Biden Administration's move to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement and revoke the permit for the Keystone oil pipeline.

The new president also made climate change one of his top four priorities as the administration tackles a host of problems — the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy and racial inequity.


The president signed 15 executive orders on his first day in office and he called for unity. Rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement was one of the orders. The 2015 global agreement was designed to make dramatic reductions in carbon emissions by 2050.

“Rejoining the Paris (Climate) Agreement is just the first step" said Pamela McElwee, a Rutgers University professor. “The U.S. now needs to ramp up a far more ambitious national plan to reduce emissions with aggressive short-term emissions cuts by 2030 and a long-term goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.”

VIDEO: New President Gives Environmentalists Hope For Planet’s Future

RELATED: San Diego Supervisors Chart New Course For Climate Action Plan

Solar industry officials say more solar power will help the nation reach the emission goals that will have an impact on climate change.

“Many state and local governments, corporate leaders, and the American people broadly are committed to deploying more solar to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association. “We are looking forward to working with these leaders and the Biden administration to meet this moment and reclaim America’s standing as a global leader in the fight against climate change."


Hopper said investing in solar can help kick-start a national economic recovery.

Biden has also promised to drop the federal government’s attack on California’s vehicle emission standards.

“I’m excited to see President Biden restoring California’s leadership on this and hopefully taking it further,” said Masada Disenhouse of San Diego 350.

Biden will allow the state to keep leading on emissions reductions from cars and trucks.

“Transportation from cars is ... half our carbon footprint,” Disenhouse said. “And nationally it’s also the biggest source of carbon pollution. So that one act of making cars more efficient will have a tremendous effect.”

Disenhouse is also hoping for better mass transit plans along with tighter pollution standards.

RELATED: San Diego Researchers Looking To Grow A Climate Solution

“Working together, we can deliver the clean energy future that Americans want and scientists say we need,” said Gregory Wetstone, president of the American Council On Renewable Energy.

Biden also wants to review the Trump administration's decisions to strip away national monument protections for such iconic locations as Grand Staircase-Escalante, Bears Ears and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine national monuments; ban new oil and gas permitting on public lands, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and reimpose methane pollution limits for new and existing oil and gas operations.

“We shouldn’t be adding fuel to the fire that is already burning down our house,” said Matt Casale of the Public Interest Research Group. “We need to be moving forward with renewable energy and with infrastructure that can build a cleaner and healthier America, not one that’s going to tie us to the fuel sources of the past.”

RELATED: Report Finds California Emissions Up In 2018

There will also be a push to use the federal government procurement system to make facilities more reliant on clean energy and to purchase zero-emission electric vehicles. The new administration also wants to re-establish a working group on the societal cost of carbon.

“President Biden has made it clear that he recognized the severity of climate crisis and trusts the science that tells us what we need to do,” Casale said.

While Biden’s early moves are winning praise, environmentalists also know that they will have to fight to get everything they want. That’s because some changes need congressional approval and Biden has not fully endorsed the Green New Deal.