President Joe Biden, flanked by climate czar John Kerry and Vice President Kamala Harris, delivers remarks on his administration's response to climate change at a White House event Wednesday. Pool Photo by Anna Moneymaker/UPI | License Photo
Jan. 27 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden signed sweeping changes on Wednesday designed to take action on numerous climate change measures, from stopping oil and gas leases on public lands to environmental justice.
Biden said his executive orders will prioritize climate change as a national security concern at every level of the federal government and increase efforts to reduce the U.S. carbon footprint and emissions.
"In my view, we've already waited too long to deal with this climate crisis. We can't wait any longer," he said during a signing ceremony at the White House. "We see it with our own eyes. We feel it. We know it in our bones. And it's time to act.
Biden said the actions are designed to build "modern and sustainable" infrastructure, restore scientific integrity and "evidence-based policymaking" and re-establish the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.
For environmental justice, the orders will address "disproportionate health, environmental, economic and climate impacts on disadvantaged communities" and establish two councils to examine historic issues to "ensure that marginalized communities benefit," a White House release said.
Biden also signed a presidential memo on scientific integrity to protect scientists from political interference.
Biden plans to host a Leaders' Climate Summit on April 22, which is Earth Day, and reconvene the Major Economies Forum.
Some in the oil and gas industry are signaling possible legal challenges to Biden's environmental plans.
"Penalizing the oil and gas industry kills good-paying American jobs, hurts our already struggling economy, makes our country more reliant on foreign energy sources and impacts those who rely on affordable and reliable energy," Anne Bradbury, president of the American Exploration and Production Council, said in a statement Wednesday.
Biden said he targeted job creation with his orders, including using federal funds to buy a fleet of zero-emissions vehicles. He also pledged not to halt fracking.
"Let me be clear, and I know it always comes up, we're not going to ban fracking," he said Wednesday.
"We'll protect jobs and grow jobs, including through stronger standards like controls from methane leaks and union workers willing to install the changes.
John Kerry, Biden's special presidential envoy for climate, attended the signing ceremony and also spoke of climate change on the international scale during an earlier briefing. He said dealing with China on climate change issues will be tricky because of "serious differences" between the two countries, beyond just the environment.
"The issues of theft of intellectual property and access to markets, South China Sea. Run the list. We all know them. Those issues will never be traded for anything that has to do with climate. That's not going to happen," Kerry said.
"But climate is a critical standalone issue that we have to deal on. ... So it's urgent that we find a way to compartmentalize, to move forward, and we'll wait and see. But President Biden is very, very clear about the need to address the other issues with China."
Kerry said that as former secretary of state, he's "mindful" of the diplomacy needed to address the issues.