Pres. Biden’s swift action on climate change draws criticism and praise

Published: Jan. 21, 2021 at 6:25 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 21, 2021 at 6:39 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - President Joe Biden wasted no time his first day in office, signing more than a dozen executive order to start his term. The two executive actions he took on climate change drew criticism as well as praise.

To start, he rejoined the U.S. in the Paris climate accord, fulfilling a campaign pledge to get back into the global climate pact. Many environmental groups applauded the decision.

Adam Sodersten with Clean Lakes Alliance, a non-profit conservation organization in Madison, said what happens higher up trickles down.

“Any time we can start to talk about some of these global issues on a global scale, it is going to boil down right to our local level, and you are going to see a positive effect because of that,” Sodersten said.

An expert on climate policy and Professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s La Follette School of Public Affairs, Gregory Nemet, said the move puts the U.S. back on the world stage.

“Other countries will be increasingly looking at the U.S. not necessarily to be a leader, it may take a while to work back to that status, but at least to see if we are serious,” Nemet said.

However, drawing criticism is Pres. Biden’s move to cancel the permit for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. The project would have carried oil more than a thousand miles from Canada to Nebraska, joining an existing pipeline. Environmentalists and Native American Groups have fought the project for more than a decade.

The president business manager of Operating Engineers Local 139, Terry McGowen, said about 2,000 jobs that would have gone to Wisconsin construction workers will be lost if the project halts. McGowen said in the pandemic, they were relying on this to help bring more opportunities.

“This was going to be our grace, and I certainly hope everyone gets together and reconsiders the decision,” McGowen said.

A group of Wisconsin Republican legislators wrote a letter to Biden urging him to reconsider revoking the permit. Republican Rep. Bryan Steil said he wants Biden to work with congress moving forward.

“I’d like to see the President come and work with congress to try and get the work done on behalf of the American people,” he said.

Nemet said said looking toward the future of clean energy, jobs will follow.

“It communicates to non-governments, to investors, to banks, to companies to say ‘OK everything is going in this direction now,’ so it doesn’t make sense to invest in long-lived fossil fuel infrastructure,” he said.

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