By Jean Chemnick
U.S. climate policy hung a U-turn yesterday, with President Biden using his Inauguration Day to launch a domestic and international response to climate change that is diametrically opposed to that of his predecessor.
The new administration marked the day by rejoining the Paris climate agreement, revoking the Keystone XL oil pipeline’s federal permit and pledging to “review” a laundry list of Trump administration regulatory actions aimed at propping up high-emitting industries.
The breadth of day one actions on climate change is in line with Biden’s promise that the issue would be a top-tier priority for this administration, along with inequality, systematic racism and the coronavirus pandemic.
Social cost of carbon
The Biden administration also announced plans yesterday to reestablish the Obama-era interagency process that developed and maintained the social cost of carbon and methane.
Those metrics assign monetized value to each ton of CO2 emitted into the Earth’s atmosphere and are used in cost-benefit analyses for regulations and other government actions.
The Biden memo announced the upcoming release of “an interim social cost of greenhouse gas schedule to ensure that agencies account for the full costs of greenhouse gas emissions, including climate risk, environmental justice and intergenerational equity.”
Environmental justice, which considers the disproportionate impacts to low-income communities and people of color from climate change or environmental degradation, was not part of the Obama process.
Michael Greenstone, an environmental economist who co-led that process, released a paper last week with Tamma Carleton of the University of California, Santa Barbara, proposing updates to the Obama administration’s formula, including ways to incorporate environmental justice.