State Dining Room
1:37 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. I know the press has just had a long session with — with the team here about what I’m going to be talking about today and this afternoon.
And let me just start by saying, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the three people standing next to me here for what they’ve agreed to do to help, particularly my best buddy, John Kerry. Asking a former Secretary of State to come back and do this has been a — I know it was a big ask on the part of myself. I was going to — I was going to blame Kamala for it as well, but for both of us.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Why not? (Laughs.)
THE PRESIDENT: And — but John has been deeply involved; the Secretary has been deeply involved in climate issues as a senator and one of the leaders, legislatively, as well. And I don’t think anybody knows more about the issue and the damage that’s been done by some of the executive orders of the previous administration.
And Gina — you run everything, Gina. Thank you very much.
Let me get to it. Today is “Climate Day” at the White House and — which means that today is “Jobs Day” at the White House. We’re talking about American innovation, American products, American labor. And we’re talking about the health of our families and cleaner water, cleaner air, and cleaner communities. We’re talking about national security and America leading the world in a clean energy future.
It’s a future of enormous hope and opportunity. It’s about coming to the moment to deal with this maximum threat that we — that’s now facing us — climate change — with a greater sense of urgency. In my view, we’ve already waited too long to deal with this climate crisis and we can’t wait any longer. We see it with our own eyes, we feel it, we know it in our bones, and it’s time to act.
And I might note, parenthetically: If you notice, the attitude of the American people toward greater impetus on focusing on climate change and doing something about it has increased across the board — Democrat, Republican, independent.
It’s — that’s why I’m signing today an executive order to supercharge our administration ambitious plan to confront the existential threat of climate change. And it is an existential threat.
Last year, wildfires burned more than 5,000 acres in the West — as no one knows better than the Vice President, a former Senator from California — an area roughly the size of the entire state of New Jersey. More intense and powerful hurricanes and tropical storms pummeled states across the Gulf Coast and along the East Coast — I can testify to that, from Delaware. Historic floods, severe droughts have ravaged the Midwest. More Americans see and feel the devastation in big cities, small towns, coastlines, and in farmlands, in red states and blue states. And the Defense Department reported that climate change is a direct threat to more than two thirds of the military’s operational critical installations. Two thirds. And so this could — we could — this could well be on the conservative side.
And many climate and health calamities are colliding all at once. It’s not just the pandemic that keeps people inside; it’s poor air quality. Multiple studies have shown that air pollution is associated with an increased risk of death from COVID-19. And just like we need a unified national response to COVID-19, we desperately need a unified national response to the climate crisis because there is a climate crisis.
We must keep — we must lead global response because neither challenge can be met, as Secretary Kerry has pointed out many times, by the United States alone. We know what to do, we’ve just got to do it.
When we think of climate change, we think of it — this is a case where conscious and convenience cross paths, where dealing with this existential threat to the planet and increasing our economic growth and prosperity are one in the same. When I think of climate change, I think of — and the answers to it — I think of jobs.
A key plank of our Build Back Better Recovery Plan is building a modern, resilient climate infrastructure and clean energy future that will create millions of good-paying union jobs — not 7, 8, 10, 12 dollars an hour, but prevailing wage and benefits.
You know, we can put millions of Americans to work modernizing our water systems, transportation, our energy infrastructure to withstand the impacts of extreme climate. We’ve already reached a point where we’re going to have to live with what it is now. That’s going to require a lot of work all by itself, without it getting any worse.
When we think of renewable energy, we see American manufacturing, American workers racing to lead the global market. We see farmers making American agriculture first in the world to achieve net-zero emissions and gaining new sources of income in the process.
And I want to parenthetically thank the Secretary of Agriculture for helping to put together that program during the campaign.
We see small business and master electricians designing, installing, and innovating energy-conserving technologies and building homes and buildings. And we’re going to reduce electric consumption and save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in energy costs in the process.
And when the previous administration reversed the Obama-Biden vehicle standard and picked Big Oil companies over American workers, the Biden-Harris administration will not only bring those standards back, we’ll set new, ambitious ones that our workers are ready to meet.
We see these workers building new buildings, installing 500,000 new electric vehicle charging stations across the country as we modernize our highway systems to adapt to the changes that have already taken place. We see American consumers switching to electric vehicles through rebates and incentives, and the residents of our cities and towns
breathing cleaner air, and fewer kids living with asthma and dying from it.
And not only that, the federal government owns and maintains an enormous fleet of vehicles, as you all know. With today’s executive order, combined with the Buy American executive order I signed on Monday, we’re going to harness
the purchasing power of the federal government to buy clean,
zero-emission vehicles that are made and sourced by union workers right here in America.
With everything I just mentioned, this will mean one million new jobs in the American automobile industry. One million. And we’ll do another thing: We’ll take steps towards my goal of achieving 100 percent carbon-pollution-free electric sector by 2035. Transforming the American electric sector to produce power without carbon pollution will be a tremendous spur to job creation and economic competitiveness in the 21st century, not to mention the benefits to our health and to our environment.
Already, 84 percent of all new electric capacity
planned to come onto the electric grid this is year is clean energy. Clean energy. Why? Because it’s affordable;
because it’s clean; because, in many cases, it’s cheaper. And it’s the way we’re keeping up — they’re keeping up. We’re going to need scientists, the national labs, land-grant universities, historical black colleges and universities to innovate the technologies needed to generate, store, and transmit clean electric — clean electricity across distances, and battery technology, and a whole range of other things.
We need engineers to design them and workers to manufacture them. We need iron workers and welders to install them. Technologies they invent, design, and build will ultimately become cheaper than any other kind of energy, helping us dramatically expand our economy and create more jobs with a cleaner, cleaner environment. And we’ll become the world’s largest exporter of those technologies, creating even more jobs.
You know, we are also — we’re going to build 1.5 million
new energy-efficient homes and public housing units that are going to benefit communities three times over: one, by alleviating the affordable housing crisis; two, by increasing energy efficiency; and, three, by reducing the racial wealth gap
linked to home ownership.
We’re also going to create more than a quarter million jobs to do things like plug the millions of abandoned oil and gas wells that pose an ongoing threat to the health and safety of our communities. They’re abandoned wells that are open now, and we’re going to put people to work. They’re not going to lose jobs in these areas; they’re going to create jobs. They’re going to get prevailing wage to cap those over a million wells. These aren’t pie-in-the-sky dreams. These are concrete,
actionable solutions, and we know how to do this.
The Obama-Biden administration reduced the auto industry — rescued the auto industry and helped them retool. We need solar energy cost-competitive with traditional energy, weatherizing more — we made them cost-competitive, weatherizing more than a million homes.
The Recovery Act of our administration — the last admin- — our admin- — the Democratic administration made record clean energy investments: $90 billion. The President asked me to make sure how that money was spent, on everything from smart grid systems to clean energy manufacturing.
Now, the Biden-Harris administration is going to do it again and go beyond. The executive order I’ll be signing establishes a White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy. And it’ll be led by one of America’s most distinguished climate leaders, former EPA Director Gina McCarthy. As the head of the new office and my National Climate Advisor, Gina will chair a National Climate Task Force, made up of many members of our Cabinet, to deliver a whole-of-government approach to the climate crisis.
This is not — it’s not time for small measures; we need to be bold. So, let me be clear: That includes helping revitalize
the economies of coal, oil, and gas, and power plant communities. We have to start by creating new, good-paying jobs, capping those abandoned wells, reclaiming mines, turning old brownfield sites into new hubs of economic growth, creating new, good-paying jobs in those communities where those workers live because they helped build this country.
We’re never going to forget the men and women who dug the coal and built the nation. We’re going to do right by them
and make sure they have opportunities to keep building the nation and their own communities and getting paid well for it.
While the whole-of-government approach is necessary, though, it’s not sufficient. We’re going to work with mayors and governors and tribal leaders and business leaders who are stepping up, and the young people organizing and leading the way. My message to those young people is: You have the full capacity and power of the federal government. Your government is going to work with you.
Now, today’s executive order also directs the Secretary of the Interior to stop issuing new oil and gas leases on public lands and offsh- — and offshore waters, wherever possible. We’re going to review and reset the oil and gas leasing program.
Like the previous administration, we’ll start to properly manage — unlike it, we’re going to start to properly manage lands and waterways in ways that allow us to protect, preserve them — the full value that they provide for us for future generations.
Let me be clear, and I know this always comes up: We’re not going to ban fracking. We’ll protect jobs and grow jobs, including through stronger standards, like controls from methane leaks and union workers in — willing to install the changes.
Unlike previous administrations, I don’t think the federal government should give handouts to big oil to the tune of $40 billion in fossil fuel subsidies. And I’m going to be going to the Congress asking them to eliminate those subsidies.
We’re going to take money and invest it in clean energy jobs in America — millions of jobs in wind, solar, and carbon capture. In fact, today’s actions are going to help us increase renewable energy production from offshore wind and meet our obligation to be good stewards of our public lands.
It establishes a new, modern-day Civilian Climate Corps — that I called for when I was campaigning — to heal our public lands and make us less vulnerable to wildfires and floods.
Look, this executive order I’m signing today also makes it official that climate change will be at the center of our national security and foreign policy.
As Secretary Kerry — as our Special Presidential Envoy for Climate — with him, the world knows how serious I am about one of America’s — by appointing one of America’s most distinguished statesmen and one of my closest friends, speaking for America on one of the most pressing threats of our time. John was instrumental in negotiating the Paris Climate Agreement that we started to — that we rejoined — this administration rejoined on day one, as I promised.
And today’s executive order will help strengthen that commitment by working with other nations to support the most vulnerable to the impact of climate change and to increase our collective resilience. That includes a summit of world leaders that I’ll convene to address this climate crisis on Earth Day, this year.
In order to establish a new effort to integrate the security implications of climate change as part of our national security and risk assessment and analysis will also be included.
With this executive order, environmental justice will be at the center of all we do addressing the disproportionate health and environmental and economic impacts on communities of color — so-called “fenceline communities” — especially those communities — brown, black, Native American, poor whites. It’s hard — the hard-hit areas like Cancer Alley in Louisia- — Cancer Alley in Louisiana, or the Route 9 corridor in the state of Delaware.
That’s why we’re going to work to make sure that they receive 40 percent of the benefits of key federal investments in clean energy, clean water, and wastewater infrastructure. Lifting up these communities makes us all stronger as a nation and increases the health of everybody.
Finally, as with our fight against COVID-19, we will listen to the science and protect the integrity of our federal response to the climate crisis.
Earlier this month, I nominated Dr. Eric Lander, a brilliant scientist who is here today, to be the Director of the Office of Science and Technology. I also nominated another brilliant scientist, Dr. Frances Arnold and Dr. Maria Zuber, to co-chair the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology — so-called “PCAST” — that President Eisenhower started six weeks after the launch of Sputnik.
It’s a team of America’s top scientists charged with asking the most American of questions: “What next? What’s the next big breakthrough?” And then helping us make the impossible possible.
Today, I’m signing a presidential memorandum making it clear that we will protect our world-class scientists from political interference and ensure they can think, research, and speak freely and directly to me, the Vice President, and the American people.
To summarize, this executive order — it’s about jobs — good-paying union jobs. It’s about workers building our economy back better than before. It’s a whole-of-government approach to put climate change at the center of our domestic, national security, and foreign policy. It’s advancing conservation; revitalizing communities and cities and in the fa– on the farmlands; and securing environmental justice.
Our plans are ambitious, but we are America. We’re bold. We are unwavering in the pursuit of jobs and innovation, science and discovery. We can do this, we must do this, and we will do this.
I’m now going to sign the executive order to meet the climate crisis with American jobs and American ingenuity. And I want to thank you all. I’m going to go over and sign that now.
The first order I’m signing is tackling the climate crisis at home and abroad.
(The executive order is signed.)
This next one: Restoring trust in government through science and integrity and evidence-based policy making.
(The executive order is signed).
One more here. And this last one is the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology established.
(The executive order is signed).
I thank you all for your time.
END 1:55 P.M. EST