- Date: January 20, 2021
- Author: Will Gartshore
As WWF welcomes President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, we recognize that the new Administration will begin during one of the most challenging moments in American history, when our democracy itself has recently come under assault.
The incoming Administration will need to bolster and strengthen our democratic institutions, which have been sorely tested and strained over the past four years. This includes confronting issues of equality, equity, and racial injustice, which are inextricably linked to the health and resilience of our society and the democratic principles that undergird it. It also means fundamentally reaffirming that political debate and policy decisions must be grounded in facts, science, and truth.
American democracy must remain strong and resilient, in no small part because American leadership is essential to addressing the most profound challenges facing our people and our planet. We are in the midst of an acute public health and economic crisis brought on by an ongoing global pandemic. At the same time, we continue to fall far short in our efforts to address two even more grave and existential crises that build in severity as time goes on—climate change, and the rapid loss of biodiversity and nature globally—and which threaten our long-term stability, security, and prosperity. These intertwined crises must be addressed with commitment and urgency by the new Administration.
As President Biden takes office, these challenges also present immense opportunities—WWF believes that the following priorities should be essential agenda items for the Biden-Harris Administration, as well as the 117th Congress:
Building Back Better & Preventing Future Pandemics
- Champion an ambitious future-focused recovery and stimulus package that ensures we build back better, both in the US and globally. In addition to addressing the immediate health and economic crises, this means designing recovery investments to cut carbon emissions, speed America’s transition to clean and renewable energy, and build the resilience of communities and nature to climate change. It also means making significant new investments internationally to prevent future pandemics by addressing the root causes of the spillover of zoonotic pathogens from wildlife to humans via the wildlife trade and the destruction and conversion of forests and other natural habitats.
- Launch a whole-of-government Task Force to ramp up and guide US efforts to address these root causes of pandemics and zoonotic spillover, working in collaboration with foreign governments and international entities and promoting a “One Health” approach.
- The rejoining of the Paris Agreement, now accomplished on Day 1, must accompanied by a series of executive actions to guide US government action on climate change and a clear and timetable for the US to put forward new and enhanced commitments under the Agreement in advance of COP26, and drive global ambition by convening international partners on multiple occasions in 2021.
- Direct EPA to put in place new carbon pollution and GHG standards for power plants and vehicles, in line with ambitious new global targets and commitments.
- Provide significant new funding for international efforts to address climate change, both bilaterally and multilaterally, including through the Green Climate Fund.
The Global Biodiversity Crisis
- Make efforts to halt the loss of nature and the decline of ecological systems globally a top priority, alongside efforts to address climate change, and strongly integrate these efforts into US foreign policy, foreign assistance, and national security policy, including through an Executive Order to direct and guide the US government response to this challenge.
- Significantly ramp up funding for global conservation and efforts to halt nature loss, bilaterally and through the Global Environment Facility, to put the US on track to double its investments in these efforts over the course of the Biden Administration’s first term.
- Rescind damaging regulations and guidance adopted during the Trump Administration with respect to the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the use of science in federal decision-making.
Illegal Trade in Wildlife, Timber, and Fish
- Reaffirm and revitalize the Presidential Task Force and National Strategy on Wildlife Trafficking, created under President Obama, revive the related Advisory Council, and reauthorize the END Wildlife Trafficking Act.
- Fully implement, fund, and enforce the Lacey Act amendments of 2008, designed to address the illegal timber trade, including a phase-in of all outstanding wood product categories by the end of 2021, and support legislation to prevent the import of commodities produced on illegally deforested or degraded lands.
- Continue to strengthen US leadership in ending Illegal, Unregulated, and Unreported (IUU) Fishing and associated human rights abuses, including through an Executive Order on Seafood Integrity and other steps to ensure all seafood imported to the US is fully traceable and complies with the necessary standards.
“30 x 30”
- Support a goal to conserve 30% of lands, waters, and oceans by 2030, both domestically and globally, through the creation of new protected areas as well as incentives for conservation and sustainable management of working and private lands and waters, in close collaboration with communities, Indigenous Peoples, and the private sector.
- Engage diplomatically to drive ambition in advance of COP15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity to help secure strong global commitments to protect, conserve, and restore nature, including the goal of conserving 30% of lands and waters by 2030.
- Announce a goal of ending deforestation, forest degradation and the conversion and degradation of natural habitats, backed up by legislation and increased global investment.
- Reflect these commitments in relevant domestic policies, such as the Farm Bill and decisions around the leasing of federal lands. Among the first actions the Administration should take is to halt lease sales in the Arctic Ocean and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and take these areas permanently off-limits for oil and gas exploration, in addition to vetoing Pebble Mine.
- Support comprehensive efforts to phase out the use of unnecessary plastics and other materials and establish the standards, incentives, and awareness to create a circular economy, through legislative and administrative action.
- Lead diplomatic efforts to achieve a binding international treaty to drive and coordinate these types of actions globally, including work with Congress to accede to the Basel Convention.
- Support policies to rectify the historical inequities and disadvantages that have led low-income communities, communities of color, and tribes and indigenous communities to be disproportionately affected by pollution and environmental degradation, including deep consultation with these groups and prioritizing investments in these communities to build resiliency and green infrastructure and promoting clean air, clean water, clean energy, and sustainable food systems.
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