Shortly after the swearing-in of the Biden-Harris administration, President Biden signed a sweeping suite of executive orders rolling back many of the previous administration’s declarations. That included, on January 20, rejoining the Paris Climate Accords, and today passing a list of executive orders targeted at combatting climate change and reducing emissions.
The AIA was quick to laud the administration, releasing the following statement on January 21:
“We are deeply encouraged by this Administration’s swift and decisive action on climate change,” said AIA 2021 president Peter Exley. “Re-establishing the United States’ commitment to the Paris climate accord sends a strong message to our nation and the world that we will pursue meaningful changes that can save our planet. As architects, we stand ready to play a significant role in achieving climate goals for the built environment and to working with the Administration and Congress toward that end.”
On that note, while the Paris agreement is seemingly ambitious in its goal to reduce global emissions and reign in global warming to a “mere” 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels (which would still result in catastrophic flooding, drought, and food insecurity), most countries are still failing to hit their pledged emissions targets. So, it should hearten climate activists that today, the Biden-Harris administration signed off on a package of executive orders that, while not a Green New Deal, lays out concrete future emissions targets and the groundwork for building sustainable infrastructure.
Unfortunately, the actual text of the order is somewhat vague on the infrastructure portion, but the rest of the order establishes a White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy, calls for a Civilian Climate Corps Initiative, ingrains environmental justice goals in every federal agency, and more:
These Executive Orders follow through on President Biden’s promise to take aggressive action to tackle climate change and build on the executive actions that the President took on his first day in office, including rejoining the Paris Agreement and immediate review of harmful rollbacks of standards that protect our air, water, and communities.
President Biden set ambitious goals that will ensure America and the world can meet the urgent demands of the climate crisis, while empowering American workers and businesses to lead a clean energy revolution that achieves a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035 and puts the United States on an irreversible path to a net-zero economy by 2050. Today’s actions advance those goals and ensure that we are tapping into the talent, grit, and innovation of American workers, revitalizing the U.S. energy sector, conserving our natural resources and leveraging them to help drive our nation toward a clean energy future, creating well-paying jobs with the opportunity to join a union, and delivering justice for communities who have been subjected to environmental harm.
President Biden will also sign an important Presidential Memorandum on scientific integrity 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. Additionally, and in line with the scientific-integrity memorandum’s charge to reestablish scientific advisory committees, President Biden will sign an Executive Order re-establishing the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.
Apart from the sections on reforestation goals and expanded brownfield remediation initiatives, the biggest impact for architects will likely be related to infrastructure sustainability—and the potential investments from the federal government to that effect:
The order catalyzes the creation of jobs in construction, manufacturing, engineering and the skilled-trades by directing steps to ensure that every federal infrastructure investment reduces climate pollution and that steps are taken to accelerate clean energy and transmission projects under federal siting and permitting processes in an environmentally sustainable manner.
While these executive orders are a firm first step in addressing an ongoing climate crisis, as Earther noted in its breakdown of the release, the “devil’s in the details.” What this means for architects, engineers, and the construction industry will likely become clearer in the coming months.