WASHINGTON - U.S. President Joe Biden signed a series of actions Wednesday to combat climate change, saying they will restore "scientific integrity and evidence-based policymaking" across the U.S. government.
A week into his presidency, the new U.S. leader called climate change an "existential threat."
"It's time to act," he said at the White House. "We can't wait any longer. We know what to do. We've just got to do it."
In advance of Biden signing three orders, the White House said the actions would allow the U.S. to achieve "a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035 and puts the United States on an irreversible path to a net-zero economy by 2050."
Biden signed a memorandum on scientific integrity that the White House said would "protect scientists from political interference and ensure they can think, research, and speak freely to provide valuable information and insights to the American people."
Additionally, Biden reestablished the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, a panel that former President Donald Trump left vacant for much of his White House tenure.
Biden said the orders to combat climate change will make the issue an "essential element of U.S. foreign policy and national security."
"The United States will exercise its leadership to promote a significant increase in global ambition," the White House said, adding that Wednesday's climate change orders "makes clear that both significant short-term global emission reductions and net-zero global emissions by mid-century - or before - are required to avoid setting the world on a dangerous, potentially catastrophic, climate trajectory."
Shortly after his Jan. 20 inauguration, Biden announced the U.S. would rejoin the 2016 international Paris climate change pact and named former Secretary of State John Kerry to serve as his climate envoy.
Kerry was the top U.S. diplomat during the crafting of the Paris climate agreement from which Trump withdrew the U.S.
The steps Biden took Wednesday include a moratorium on new oil and gas leasing on U.S. lands and waters, and regulatory actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He also directed officials to set aside more areas for conservation and establish a White House office to serve low-income and minority communities that disproportionately suffer from air and water pollution.
In addition, Biden is directing government agencies to buy "carbon pollution-free electricity and clean, zero-emission vehicles to create good-paying, union jobs and stimulate clean energy."
Biden is planning for the U.S. to host a summit of climate change leaders in April on the annual celebration of Earth Day.
While his order demanding attention to climate change could win support among progressive Democrats, major U.S. industries, including automakers and energy producers, have often resisted tighter regulations mandating pollution curbs.
As the U.S. attempts to curb its use of coal as an energy source in favor of cleaner, renewable fuels, coal-mining states have voiced opposition, and mine workers have been left without jobs, leaving their communities impoverished.
Congressional lawmakers have often been deadlocked trying to write and enact further environmental controls in the U.S., while industries have often filed lawsuits against restrictions that have been imposed.
Before Biden even delivered his climate change remarks, the Denver-based Western Energy Alliance, representing 200 oil and natural gas production companies, lodged a suit against his ban on leasing rights on U.S.-owned lands.
"The law is clear. Presidents don't have authority to ban leasing on public lands. All Americans own the oil and natural gas beneath public lands, and Congress has directed them to be responsibly developed on their behalf," Western Energy Alliance President Kathleen Sgamma said on Wednesday. "President Biden cannot simply ignore laws in effect for over half a century."
The alliance contended that Biden's actions would result in the loss of more than 58,000 jobs across eight Western states.
In his remarks, Biden said the need for a retooled economy to combat climate change would result in more jobs and higher-paying employment, not job reduction.