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Biden rolls back Trump-era climate policies, commits to tackling crisis

In his first hours in office, President Biden signed executive orders aimed at tackling the climate crisis and rolling back Trump-era policies, some of which denied the science of human-caused climate change. NewsHour Weekend’s Ivette Feliciano spoke with May Boeve, executive director of climate justice organization 350.org, about the potential impact of Biden’s new climate commitments.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    In his first hours in office this week, President Biden signed executive orders aimed at tackling the climate crisis and rolling back Trump-era policies, which, by and large, denied the science of human-caused climate change. NewsHour Weekend's Ivette Feliciano spoke with May Boeve, executive director of climate justice organization 350.org, about the potential impact of Biden's new climate commitments.

  • Ivette Feliciano:

    So May, in broad strokes, looking back at the last four years, what is the Trump administration's legacy in regards to climate? And what were some of the major changes in policy over the last four years that impacted the focus of your work at 350.org?

  • May Boeve:

    We're really running out of words to describe just how damaging Donald Trump's legacy is when it comes to so many things. So since we're running out of words, I'll give you a number one hundred. That's the number of climate related rollbacks his administration oversaw that included stopping good things that were already happening, like the auto efficiency standards. It also included actively making the climate problem worse. So opening up more federal lands to drilling. So these one hundred rollbacks are incredibly significant. But the good news is, even on day one, President Biden started to undo the damage and already exercised his executive authority in crucial ways to start to make up for lost time. The truth is, we don't have time when it comes to solving the climate crisis. And precious time was lost under the Trump administration. But there are good signs that we can go big enough as a country by working together to undo some of that damage.

  • Ivette Feliciano:

    And President Biden announced the U.S. will be rejoining the Paris climate agreement. Is that accord more symbolic and about diplomacy or does it have real-world outcomes for the climate crisis?

  • May Boeve:

    It certainly has real-world outcomes because there's no way to address a problem as big as climate change without working internationally. And so the US rejoining its diplomatic alliances is fundamental to getting the job done at scale. And we know the Paris agreement is a step in the right direction. It needs to be strengthened. And the way that that happens is every single country following through on what they said they would do and going way beyond. So it's an important first step. It signals the kind of leadership we need to see and the kind of re-engagement with our allies. But it's up to every country who's part of that agreement. Crucially, the United States to actually put their money where their mouth is.

  • Ivette Feliciano:

    President Biden, as you mentioned, has already announced some major policy reversals in regards to climate, including stopping construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Can you give us some background on why the KXL pipeline was at the top of Biden's agenda in his first days in office?

  • May Boeve:

    Certainly, stopping Keystone XL is very much a people-powered victory. And it was started by indigenous peoples along the route of the pipeline in the US and Canada. It represents the same amount of climate saving potential as stopping 50 coal plants. So people can imagine the damage that it would have done. It has real world implications. This was a fight that the climate movement was involved in for the past 10 years. So just like we're seeing the actions taken on day one, if Joe Biden's message is on the campaign trail about linking ending climate change to ending inequality, linking economic recovery to green jobs, fighting the fossil fuel industry and taking them on, tackling climate change in a way that tackles racial injustice, if he follows through on those promises, it truly has the potential to be a transformative presidency.

  • Ivette Feliciano:

    And we've reported on how many indigenous groups in farming communities along the construction route were fighting to stop its construction. What are you hearing from folks on the ground?

  • May Boeve:

    Everyone knows it's important to celebrate milestones, and that is indeed happening. But folks on the ground are enmeshed in other pipeline fights as we speak. Crucially, the fight over the line three pipeline and we need to see a climate test put in place now that Keystone has been rejected, that will not let any of these damaging fossil fuel projects go forward. That includes line three, that includes the Dakota access pipeline, that includes a lot of fossil fuel projects that are not as well known, but equally damaging to people and planet.

  • Ivette Feliciano:

    May Boeve, executive director of 350.org, thank you so much for joining us.

  • May Boeve:

    Thank you.

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