Biden signs executive actions on climate change: ‘It’s time to act’

 President Joe Biden delivered remarks Wednesday about his plan to tackle climate change and signed related executive actions to further the key part of his agenda, which includes “creating jobs and restoring scientific integrity,” the White House said Wednesday.

Biden said that his administration’s plan is addressing the existential threat “with a greater sense of urgency.”

“In my view, we’ve already waited too long to deal with this climate crisis. We can’t wait any longer. We see it with our own eyes we feel it. We know it in our bones. And it’s time to act,” Biden said before signing the executive actions in the White House State Dining Room.

The executive actions Wednesday direct the federal government to elevate climate change to a national security priority, conserve about 30 percent of all federal land and water by 2030 and suspend new leases for natural gas and oil development on federal lands and waters.

The actions also will create a commission focused on environmental justice and green jobs, direct federal agencies to rely on science in their rulemaking and convene a climate summit of world leaders on Earth Day, April 22.

“It’s a whole of government approach to put climate change at the center of our domestic national security and foreign policy,” Biden said. “It’s advancing conservation, revitalizing communities and cities and on the farmlands and securing environmental justice. Our plans are ambitious, but we are America. We’re bold, we’re unwavering in the pursuit of jobs and innovation, science and discovery.”

In a reversal of Trump administration policies, Biden canceled the Keystone XL pipeline and rejoined the Paris climate agreement last week.

“The stakes on climate change just couldn’t be any higher right now. It is existential,” said John Kerry, who is now Biden’s special climate envoy, speaking to reporters Wednesday ahead of Biden’s remarks. “Failure literally is not an option.”

Kerry, who served as secretary of state during the Obama administration, stressed that a global approach needed to be coupled with an aggressive domestic plan.

“The world will measure us on what we can do here at home,” he said.

In other administration news:

— Biden’s Covid-19 response team held its first regular briefing at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the status of the federal government’s strategy to address the coronavirus pandemic. Dr. Anthony Fauci, now Biden’s chief medical adviser on the disease, White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky participated.

— Vice President Kamala Harris ceremonially swore in Antony Blinken as Biden’s secretary of state. The Senate confirmed his nomination Tuesday.

— Biden’s nominees for energy secretary, secretary of veterans affairs and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations — respectively, Jennifer Granholm, Denis McDonough and Linda Thomas-Greenfield — have Senate confirmation hearings Wednesday.