WASHINGTON – “Birds are telling us we are in a climate emergency and it is wreaking havoc on our communities, our lands, and our waters,” said David Yarnold, president and CEO of the National Audubon Society. “We’re living in a warming planet, with growing inequities, where natural spaces, birds, and wildlife are disappearing at an alarming rate. Today’s actions point us toward a much brighter future for birds and people, but they must be followed with durable and inclusive policies that can keep us on that path.”
President Biden signed a series of executive orders and memorandums today aimed at combatting climate change, conserving and restoring our public lands and waters, and incorporating social justice into the federal government’s efforts to protect the environment. Among the president’s new actions was the creation of a council to coordinate climate efforts across the federal government, including matters of climate injustices and national security among federal agencies.
“The creation of the National Climate Task Force is a clear demonstration of the scope of this administration’s approach to addressing the climate crisis,” said Yarnold. “The task force and its actions must be met and magnified by Congress in passing comprehensive legislation to reduce carbon emissions.”
New science has revealed the loss of 3 billion birds in North America since 1970 and that two-thirds of those birds are at risk of extinction due to climate change. President Biden also announced a federal commitment to conserve and restore 30 percent of the nation’s lands and waters by the year 2030.
“Climate change is worsening persistent threats to birds such as habitat fragmentation, loss, and degradation and this commitment will help address these urgent problems,” said Sarah Greenberger, senior vice president for conservation policy, National Audubon Society. “Today marks a generational opportunity to achieve these conservation goals while respecting Indigenous rights, helping landowners and fishing communities, and creating jobs. Now is the time to prove once and for all that with good science, stewardship, and partnership, we can restore and work our lands and waters at the same time.”
President Biden also announced a pause on the leasing of public lands for oil and gas drilling. The previous administration moved to open up large swaths of our nation's coasts to oil drilling, despite overwhelming bipartisan opposition, demonstrating the need for long-term changes to leasing and permitting policy.
“By pausing the haphazard oil and gas giveaway of the last four years, the Biden administration can establish a thoughtful approach for stewarding our public lands,” said Greenberger. “We can manage public lands so that they benefit the people of this country by reducing carbon emissions, and providing clean, renewable energy.”
Included in today's announcement were a series of actions to address the inequities that have long been engrained in the response to environmental issues. Audubon believes that reducing emissions and conserving our lands and waters must come with equity for those communities who have long been subjected to systemic racial, social, and economic injustice and disproportionately shouldered the burden of climate change.
“President Biden and Vice President Harris are reshaping the federal government to reflect the reality that environmental issues are racial, social, and economic justice issues,” said Greenberger. “We must also not leave those workers who live in fossil-fuel dependent communities behind as we shift to a more sustainable future. Not only do these actions better align the government’s efforts with the needs of all people, they also include a measurable goal that will ensure clean energy investment benefits frontline communities.”
The president’s environmental justice actions included: the establishment of an interagency council on environmental justice, the appointment of environmental justice officers who will report out recommendations to support climate justice and vulnerable communities, an external White House advisory council on environmental justice, an enforcement directive for the EPA to recommit itself to enforcing our nation’s pollution laws, an executive order for 40 percent of federal clean energy investment to be directed to marginalized communities, and the establishment of an Office of Climate Change within the Department of Health and Human Services.
The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Learn more at www.audubon.org and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @audubonsociety.
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