Biden Prioritizes Climate Change


After years of disinterest from the Trump Administration, President-elect Biden seeks to elevate and accelerate transformation of America’s climate policies with major investments in infrastructure and technology aimed at mitigating climate change.

In July, Biden announced a $2 trillion, four-year plan to invest in clean energy and sustainable infrastructure. The announcement was a shift from the Biden campaign’s initial $1.7 trillion ten-year plan and reflects a nod toward the progressive wing of the Democratic party.

Biden plans to rollback President Trump’s regulatory actions that, according to an analysis by the Rhodium Group, would result in an additional 1.8 billion tons of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere by 2035 relative to greenhouse gas emissions under Obama-era regulations. The goals under Biden’s plan include setting the U.S. on a path to carbon neutrality by 2050 and ensuring new buildings are net-zero carbon emitters after 2030. He will also have the U.S. rejoin the Paris Agreement on climate change, and is likely to announce that decision on his first day in office.

Biden views climate change investments as a jobs and infrastructure program that will both boost the economy and set it on a more sustainable path. He will seek to harden infrastructure to withstand the impacts of climate change-induced storms, floods, and fires. Most major cities are on bodies of water and will experience the impact of rising sea levels due to climate change. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) website, 40% of the U.S. population lives in high-population density coastal areas, and, globally, eight out of the ten largest cities are near a coastline. NOAA also reports that the number of weather and climate-related disaster events in the U.S., costing at least $1 billion, is increasing — as of early October, there were 16 such events during 2020, whereas the annual average from 1980 through 2019 was 6.6 events.

We can invest in our infrastructure to make it stronger and more resilient, while at the same time tackling the root causes of climate change.

Presidential Candidate Biden, September 14th

As the new administration thinks about infrastructure resilience, a strategic consideration will be maintenance of mission-critical technology. As FBIQ has previously discussed, the network has become the mission-critical asset for both government and the private sector. The pandemic has only accelerated this trend as organizations rely more on telework and telehealth.

Technology will also be a key factor in the innovations Biden envisions for a “clean energy future.” Examples include improved battery technology for electric automobiles, technological improvements to electric grid transmission and distribution, and machine learning to optimize vehicular traffic control. He would also create a new federal agency — the Advanced Research Projects Agency on Climate (ARPA-C) — to lead research on energy-related technology innovation.

While many of the specific details in the Biden climate change and clean energy technology agenda won’t be sorted out until after he takes office, potential priorities are evident in the legislative actions taken by House Democrats. As FBIQ noted in our October 2020 monthly report, climate change research and technology were priorities in the House-passed FY21 Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill. Funding for NOAA and NASA climate research and data collection programs was protected from Trump Administration cuts and, in many cases, increased. NOAA storm prediction modeling, data collection technology, and supercomputing were among the winners. For NASA, the House bill increased funding for Earth and climate science initiatives.

Climate change and clean energy priorities are also included in several other House-passed appropriations bills. The FY21 Energy and Water Development bill includes a significant funding increase for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs — $2.1 billion above the Trump request and $58 million above FY20 funding for base programs, as well as an additional $7.8 billion in emergency funding. The Energy-Water bill also provides $392.5 million for the Department of Energy’s Grid Modernization Initiative to boost national energy systems resilience modeling and improve grid cyber resilience. The bill also includes $95 million for negative emissions technology R&D, which the Committee describes as “an important part of the portfolio of responses to climate change.”

The House-passed FY21 Interior and Environment appropriations bill includes a $261 million increase above the Trump budget request ($29 million above FY20 funding) for Environmental Protection Agency Science and Technology programs, including a $64.5 million increase ($3.5 million above FY20) for the Air and Energy Research Program, including climate change research that was proposed for elimination by the Trump budget. The bill also approves $63 million for Climate Adaptation and Land Change Science within the U.S. Geological Survey and ensures that the nine national and regional Climate Adaptation Science Centers (CASC), which develop data and tools to help natural resource managers adapt to climate change, remain open.

The Committee provides strong support to ensure the nation’s electric grid remains secure, resilient, and ready to incorporate new technologies, particularly those that mitigate and adapt to climate change.

FY21 House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Committee Report, July 15th

We view these funding decisions by House Democrats as leading indicators for priorities likely to emerge in Biden’s FY22 budget. Further, in the 117th Congress, House Democrats are signaling their support for increased climate-related funding through a new budget exemption for “measures to prevent, prepare for, or respond to economic, environmental, or public health consequences resulting from climate change.”

While the prospects for significant climate-related legislation will likely depend on the outcome of the January 5th Georgia Senate run-off elections, funding for these initiatives is likely to increase over the next five years.

The transition team is drafting a series of executive orders, regulations, and other administrative actions to advance Biden’s climate agenda. We also expect to see greater attention by federal managers to improving network resilience as a defense against operational failures due to storms, floods, fires, and other climate-related threats.

Federal agencies’ reliance on networks has increased considerably, raising the importance of network integrity, reliability, and disaster recovery capability. Technology providers working with agencies should view this as an excellent opportunity to shape their customers’ modernization and innovation goals that boost resilience.