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Biden confronts the climate crisis with a new spate of executive orders

President Biden underscored his sweeping break from former President Trump signing a new batch of executive orders to address the climate crisis. Those actions include a pause on new oil and gas leases on federal land and water, a focus on environmental injustices and building new clean energy jobs. Yamiche Alcindor reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    A sea change on climate change.

    As one of his first actions, President Biden is doing a 180-degree turn from his predecessors policy and vowing to confront the issue head on.

    White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor begins our coverage.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    A climate crisis and a call for dramatic action. Today, President Biden underscored his sweeping break from former President Trump, signing a new batch of executive orders.

    JOE BIDEN, President of the United States: Our plans are ambitious, but we are America. We're bold. We're unwavering in the pursuit of jobs and innovation, science and discovery. We can do this.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    President Biden had already moved to rejoin the Paris climate agreement, the same accord that President Trump withdrew from.

    The new executive actions include pausing and reviewing new oil and gas leases on federal public lands and water, addressing environmental injustices faced by disadvantaged communities, and building jobs focused on clean energy.

    During the presidential campaign, candidate Biden advocated a $2 trillion effort to reduce global warming.

    Today, his presidential envoy for climate, former Secretary of State John Kerry, doubled down on that goal.

  • John Kerry:

    It's a lot of money, but you know what? It costs a lot more if you don't do the things we need to do. Workers are going to see that, with the efforts of the Biden administration, they're going to have a much better set of choices and, frankly, it will create more jobs.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Most Republicans have pushed back on climate change efforts, saying they cost too much. They argue that clean energy means slashing jobs.

    The Biden administration, though, insists that these new policies will create new well-paid employment opportunities, jobs designed to focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and developing new technology.

    Today, as part of that push, the president's nominee for energy secretary, former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, advocated his energy plans at her Senate confirmation hearing.

  • Jennifer Granholm:

    We don't want to see any jobs sacrificed. The president's plan of building back better, which would create more jobs in energy, clean energy.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Meanwhile, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee heard from Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the nominee for ambassador to the United Nations.

    She warned that the U.S. must reengage with the world to challenge China's growing power.

  • Linda Thomas-Greenfield:

    We know China is working across the U.N. system to drive an authoritarian agenda that stands in opposition to the founding values of the institution, American values. Their success depends on our continued withdrawal. That will not happen on my watch.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The Veterans Affairs Committee heard from Denis McDonough, nominee for Veterans Affairs secretary.

  • Denis McDonough:

    If confirmed, I will work tirelessly to build and restore VA's trust as a premiere agency for ensuring the well-being of American veterans.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    And the Senate Commerce Committee advanced former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg's nomination for transportation secretary.

    And on the pandemic, today, the president's COVID response team held its first public briefing.

  • Woman:

    Thank you all for joining us today.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    It came amid growing calls to distribute vaccines faster.

    Andy Slavitt is the White House senior adviser for COVID response.

  • Andy Slavitt:

    We are taking action to increase supply and increase capacity. But, even so, it will be months before everyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Yesterday, the president announced that the U.S. will order an additional 200 million vaccine doses. He said that will mean there will be enough doses for 300 million Americans by summer.

    Today, Slavitt said that, ultimately, the nation will need 500 million shots to vaccinate everyone 16 and older.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Yamiche Alcindor.

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