Faced with an unfolding climate crisis that is fueling more powerful storms, enormous wildfires and scorching heatwaves in the US, Donald Trump unapologetically set about dismantling policies to cut planet-heating emissions, mocked or ignored climate science, and threw open vast tracts of American land and water to fossil fuel development.
The systematic reversals in environmental protections pose a challenge to Joe Biden, Trump’s successor as US president, who has called climate change the “existential threat of our time”. Biden has set about the task of undoing Trump’s legacy with hyperactive zeal, through a flurry of executive actions. In all, about 100 Trump-era environmental policies are being targeted, although some may take several years to reverse. Here’s how Biden is doing it.
1) Protecting endangered animals and their habitats
What Trump did In an attempt to offer up more area for oil and gas drilling, which the industry said would be a boon for jobs, the Trump administration weakened key interpretations of the Endangered Species Act, making it harder to protect endangered species and their habitats. Rules banning the killing of migratory birds were loosened, companies were allowed to “incidentally” kill animals as they went about drilling, and creatures suffering large population declines, such as the monarch butterfly, were denied endangered species listing.
What Biden is doing Biden is reviewing, and will probably reverse, Trump’s wildlife rollbacks, such as those involving the protection of migratory birds and the application of endangered species rules. Other planned reforms should aid species facing what scientists say is the Earth’s sixth mass extinction event, such as clean water rules that safeguard streams and wetlands, environmental reviews of potentially destructive projects and the halting of fossil fuel development in places such as the Arctic national wildlife refuge, a vital, pristine wilderness for birds, caribou and other creatures.