Updated: Dec 2, 2020
Now more than ever are people paying attention to politics as contested issues begin to affect all citizens’ lives and futures. Consequently, the 2020 presidential election of the United States had the highest voter turnout in modern history of America, with more than 65% of eligible voters casting a ballot. Several polls during the election demonstrated that climate change was among the top tier of voters' priorities, and the Biden administration drew on this to attract young voters.
In July of 2020, Biden announced an unprecedented and ambitious two trillion dollar climate plan as part of his campaign. The plan is spread over four years and is outlined as an ‘irreversible path’ to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 that will create “millions of jobs to rebuild America’s crumbling infrastructure”. The plan of action involves ‘a historic investment in clean energy and climate innovation’; the swift deployment of clean energy installations across the country; and the revitalization of the U.S energy sector to export clean-energy technology across the globe. It encompasses ambitious goals that are hoped to cause international momentum throughout the world and a commitment to invest 40% of clean energy money into communities that have been disproportionately impacted by environmental racism.
Additionally, the 1.5 limit goal that the Paris Agreement attempted to enforce has been tightened and increased to a two degree limit, which has enormous implications for the climate.
The updated plan to combat climate change is viewed as evidence of Biden’s consistent dedication to the issue over the years. His team has publicly sought input and advice from a number of high-profile climate and justice advocates. Since the declaration of the election on November 13th, Joe Biden has been appointing his transition teams with climate experts from various fields and has been strengthening the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality.
Council on Environmental Quality
The Council on Environmental Quality is a division of the Executive Office of the President that aims to coordinate federal environmental efforts in the U.S. and work closely with agencies and other White House offices on the development of environmental and energy policies.
Many voters wonder if Biden’s ambitious goals and plan will become a reality. However, the predicted composition of the council is an indicator of upcoming progress.
At the lead of the review of the Council is Cecilia Martinez, an advocate for the importance of environmental justice in climate policies, who was one of the principal advisors of Biden’s two trillion dollar plan. Throughout her career, Dr. Martinez has worked with a range of organizations that engage in the promotion of sound environmental policy She is currently the co founder and Executive Director of the Center for Earth, Energy, and Democracy, which is an organization that works to ensure that communities and policy makers have the tools and information they need to create just, sustainable policies. They additionally focus on educating and empowering communities at the forefront of the environmental justice movement.
In 2020, she was named one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People, nominated by New Jersey Senator Cory Booker for her work. Her passion for the climate and equality is admirable:
“ For too long, systemic racism and injustice have disproportionately exposed economically disadvantaged communities, tribal communities, and communities of color to the highest levels of toxic pollution. As the current COVID-19 crisis demonstrates, the interconnection between environmental and health risks has created crisis conditions for communities already battling toxic pollution that causes respiratory and other illnesses. Unless intentionally interrupted, systemic racism will continue to be a major obstacle to creating a healthy planet. The only path forward is to design national climate policies that are centered on justice ” (Martinez).
Cecilia Martinez is on the shortlist to head the Council after Biden’s inauguration. The new council's rollout will be crucial to Biden's climate and energy platform, and play a substantial part in ensuring the stability and safety of future generations.
Sarah Dufays is a high school sophomore at American Heritage School in Plantation, FL.