Optimistic Prospects for US Climate Policy in the Biden Administration

Briefing Note

This briefing note considers the prospects for the Biden administration’s climate policy. It surveys the main elements of the Biden administration’s climate policies in his first month in office, as well as what is not included, and it speculates on the potential for these policies to be adopted and implemented. Key personnel and the overall structure of the climate policy making process are explained, including some departments, agencies, and regulatory bodies which are not usually part of climate-related discussions. Overall, this briefing note concludes that the main direction of Biden’s climate policies seems relatively ambitious, and the Biden administration is likely to emphasize substantial concrete domestic policy actions, not just declarations of abstract principles. In the short term, these will focus on regulations, especially on transportation, energy, and financial reporting, as well as government procurement. Fundamentally, Biden’s climate policy is intended as a giant jobs program, aiming to create 10 million jobs with USD 1.7 trillion in investment over 10 years (leveraging additional private, state, and local investments totalling over USD 5 trillion), but this requires funding from Congress, which is not assured. In international negotiations, Biden’s presidential campaign plan called for binding agreements on enhanced climate ambition, including shipping and aviation. Future trade agreements may be conditioned on climate agreements, and Biden may support the adoption of a carbon border adjustment. The US will also reengage with the many climate-related international cooperation initiatives. However, at this stage, most policies are not very concrete, so it is too early to estimate their potential impact on actual greenhouse gas emissions.