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The View on Climate Change has Changed in Washington

Chris Howard | March 1, 2021

The Biden Administration signals both a renewed and accelerated focus on climate change as evidenced by two recently issued Executive Orders: Executive Order 13990, “Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science To Tackle the Climate Crisis” signed January 20, 2021 and published in the Federal Register on January 25, 2021, and Executive Order 14008, “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad” signed January 27, 2021 and issued in the Federal Register on February 1, 2021. The Executive Orders are ambitious and far-reaching, providing a clear indication of the Administration’s agenda – a shift towards a clean energy based economy through regulations, financial directives and incentives, a prepared and skilled workforce, with a commitment to social justice.

Clear Goals and Responsibilities and Recognition of the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Executive Order 13390 sets goals to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, bolsters resilience to the impacts of climate change and prioritizes both environmental justice and the creation of the well-paying union jobs necessary to deliver on these goals. The Executive Order directs the heads of each federal agency to immediately review actions of the Trump Administration that may be inconsistent with the identified goals and take action to eliminate those inconsistencies. Importantly, the Executive Order outlines a method to estimate monetized damages associated with incremental increases in GHG emissions, specifically identifying the social cost of carbon (SCC), the social cost of nitrous oxide (SCN) and the social cost of methane (SCM). The SCC during the Obama Administration was set at $42/ton; the Trump Administration lowered the metric to $8/ton. A SCC as high as $125/ton has been rumored for the Biden Administration. At $125/ton, negative impacts on natural gas use have been predicted.

New Domestic and International Climate Policy and Direction

Executive Order 14008 provides key insights about the direction of both domestic and international US climate policy. From an international perspective, the US will rejoin the Paris Agreement, develop a Climate Finance Plan to assist developing countries, and identify steps the US can take to end international financing of carbon-intensive fossil fuel-based energy while simultaneously advancing sustainable development and a green recovery. Domestic policy reflects goals to create well-paying union jobs to build a modern and sustainable infrastructure, deliver an equitable, clean energy future and put the US on a path to achieve net-zero economy-wide emissions by no later than 2050. The Executive Order also includes domestic goals to turn disadvantaged and historically marginalized areas into healthy, thriving communities. The Order prompts agencies to undertake robust actions to mitigate climate change while preparing for the impacts of climate change and through the Justice40 Initiative, publish recommendations on how certain Federal investments might be made toward a goal that 40% of the overall benefits flow to disadvantaged communities.

The Changing View Shapes a New Outlook

The Executive Orders identify the Administration’s policies, potential regulatory actions and financial directives and incentives to address climate issues, infrastructure, workforce, and social justice both domestically and internationally. Both Executive Orders reflect a commitment to making climate, sustainability, and resiliency the foundation of the Biden Administration’s agenda. The breadth, reach, and the potential commercial impact of the Executive Orders is evidenced by the required engagement of agencies that include the Departments of Agriculture, Energy, Justice, Labor, Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency.

TRC is fully prepared to assist you and your organization to address the current, and likely growing, climate, sustainability and resiliency focus of the Biden Administration agenda. Whether your organization desires  to set targets with a greenhouse gas emissions inventory, seeks information about the impact of climate change on operations, invest in clean energy or hardening of assets, or document environmental, social, and governance performance, you can look to TRC for grounded, actionable, and pragmatic support to advance your climate action, sustainability, and resiliency strategy.

Links to Executive Orders

Executive Order 13990:
Executive Order 14008:

Chris Howard

Chris Howard, PE is the Air Measurement Office Practice Lead at TRC Companies for the Baton Rouge, Louisiana office. He received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil Engineering from Louisiana State University in 1993 and has over 25 years of experience in multi-media environmental compliance consulting with a primary focus in air compliance and permitting along with solid waste compliance, spill prevention planning and response, and project management. Contact Chris at

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