ESG – The Potential for a Biden Administration and Bi-Partisan Climate Change Action in 2021

As we almost turn the page from 2020 to 2021, many have cause for optimism with regard to the incoming Biden Administration and the potential for bi-partisan climate change engagement and action.  A hint of cautious optimism is, indeed, in the air.


President elect Biden campaigned on an ambitious climate action agenda and both R’s and D’s seem ready to address climate change and risk as part of a renewed focus on the environment.

President-elect Biden’s plans include re-engagement on various green energy and infrastructure projects and also include proposals to address environmental racism as part of the previously announced “Build Back Better” program.

So, what is first on the agenda:

Paris Accord – the U.S. will re-enter the Paris climate accord and will likely look to re-engage on various environmental regulatory rollbacks put into place by President Donald Trump — these can be done by executive action.

Other Executive Orders – President elect Biden has indicated an interest to limit oil and gas drilling on public lands and in public waters, increase gas mileage standards for vehicles and to block the construction of specific fossil fuel pipelines – these can also be done by executive order.

Legislation – much will depend on where the Georgia Senatorial run-off elections end up.  If the Republican party is able to hold onto control of the Senate, however, there still appears to be interest by both parties for climate change policy.

Policy – Biden has also promised to pursue:

  • a 100% clean electricity standard by 2035 (a proposal that could mean the shuttering or total renovation of all coal-fired and gas-fired power plants in the U.S.);
  • Net Zero – attempting to get to net-zero emissions by 2050, at the latest.
  • Renewable Energy – a $2 trillion investment in renewable energy projects, with 40% of the funds benefiting communities of color that have been harmed by pollutants.
  • Green Infrastructure – coordinated systems based approach to agency procurement to focus across the Federal landscape of agencies (e.g., on 
    Transportation, Interior and the GSA) to help build new green infrastructure and incentivize developing green energy sources
  • State Department is likely to be used to focus other international powers to similarly focus on climate policy and carbon emissions.

    Per reporting from ABC News, the Growing Climate Solutions Act, sponsored by Sens. Mike Braun, R-Ind.; Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., focuses on carbon-capture technologies in the agricultural sector, while Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Whitehouse have put together another bipartisan bill focused on increasing carbon-capture methods that occur naturally within ocean and coastal ecosystems.
  • Moreover, Reps. David McKinley, R-W.Va., and Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., have proposed a 10-year public and private partnership to invest in clean energy and infrastructure and subsequent new regulations.

Duane Morris has an active ESG and Sustainability Team to help organizations and individuals plan, respond to, and execute on Sustainability and ESG planning and initiatives within their own space.  We would be happy to discussion your proposed project with you.  Contact your Duane Morris attorney for more information.

If you have any questions about this post, please contact Brad A. Molotsky, Sheila Slocum Hollis, Patrick Morand, Brad Thompson or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.

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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.

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