The Biden Administration’s decision to throw out the Trump White House’s method for calculating the social cost of carbon was one of the first tangible actions on the president’s lengthy climate change to-do list as he works to convince the world that the White House is once again serious about a global response to warming temperatures. The approach, announced Friday, pegs the social cost of carbon at $51 a ton for 2021 after adjusting for inflation at a 3% discount rate. The Biden plan, which replaces a Trump-era method that was as low as $1, will be used on an interim basis. A higher dollar figure makes it harder for agencies to issue new regulations that are more permissive to industry because it more starkly shows the benefits of tough rules outweigh the costs.
Several earlier executive orders signed by the president so far also address climate change, many incorporating dozens of separate directives. One of those orders, signed on Jan. 27, directs agencies across the government to complete at least 60 separate actions, according to an examination by Bloomberg Law. It sets April and May deadlines for a few of the tasks.
Administration officials have already ticked off a few of the most straightforward items, such as naming climate envoy John Kerry and proposing the new price on the harm caused by carbon dioxide. But they have yet to meaningfully tackle the more daunting components of the directive that will require collaboration across agencies, such as developing a federal green buying plan or analyzing security implications of climate change.
They’ve also stumbled: the U.S. Postal Service announced plans last week to buy as many as 165,000 new mail trucks that would be powered mainly by internal combustion engines, outraging some environmental activists and members of Congress who said the award violates Biden’s day-one executive order calling on the government to prioritize clean energy in vehicle purchases.