UCLA environmental law and climate change experts have seen positive developments under President Joe Biden. Now, halfway through his first 100 days, they are weighing in on what his administration has already accomplished and watching closely for what to come.

Professors from the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, UCLA School of Law and UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs note that Biden has already brought the United States back into the Paris climate agreement, formed a national climate working group and appointed climate advocates to senior positions. in federal agencies, among other actions. But with narrow Democratic majorities in Congress and a conservative Supreme Court, it won’t be easy for the administration to implement its full environmental agenda, according to UCLA professors.

Here, seven UCLA faculty members share their analyzes of what the president has accomplished and envision the challenges ahead.

Cara Horowitz
Andrew Sabin Family Foundation Co-Executive Director, Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment
Ex expertise in emissions policies and federal environmental policy

On having climate change leaders at the top and what’s next under the Paris Agreement

UCLA Law School

Cara Horowitz

Point of view: It is the first administration to place climate change leaders in strong appointments in agencies and fields, from top to bottom of the list. From health and social services to road safety to the budget office, climate champions are now in place to help tackle this problem in many directions. It is extremely promising.

Next : The United States owes the world its next climate action pledge under the Paris Agreement, and that pledge will be announced later this year. If President Biden is serious about taking back international leadership on this issue, our American engagement has better be good, because global leadership begins at home. The United States is going to have to show that it can make meaningful and lasting national progress on climate change before it tries to exercise any moral authority at the UN.

Julia stein
Supervising Lawyer, UCLA Frank G. Wells Environmental Law Clinic
Expertise in emissions regulations, plastic waste policies and environmental litigation

On preparing to defend climate action in court and new automotive emissions standards

UCLA Law School

Julia stein

Point of view: President Biden faces a deadlock in Congress and a more conservative judiciary, especially the Supreme Court. The administration will need to think strategically about using executive agencies to advance major climate action and attempt to preserve these advances in the face of judicial oversight.

Next : I will closely follow Biden’s policies on electric vehicles and the process of implementing new auto emissions and fuel economy standards after the Trump administration rolled back Obama-era standards and revoked the California waiver to set more stringent emission standards. Transportation emissions account for a large portion of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, so taking ambitious action in this space would have a big impact.

Alex wang
Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law
Ex expertise in Environmental relations between the United States and China

On pressure on China by stepping up US environmental efforts

UCLA Law School

Alex wang

Point of view: One of President Biden’s biggest climate change challenges will be managing the United Statesrelationship with China.

Next : Climate change is an area that has been, and will continue to be, ripe for cooperation and constructive competition. The most important thing the United States can do to pressure China to act more aggressively on climate change is to re-energize its own national climate actions. Efforts to push China to peak its emissions sooner or accelerate its carbon neutrality goal will be much less effective if the United States’ own climate efforts hesitantly evolve.

Strong climate action from the United States would also dramatically expand global markets and finance for clean technology, and serve as an example for developed and developing countries around the world.

Aradhna Tripati
professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences at UCLA; Director, Center for Diverse Leadership in Science
Eexpertise in climate change, environmental justice and paleoclimatology

On supporting and including communities of color and low-income communities in climate adaptation efforts

Courtesy of Aradhna Tripati

Aradhna Tripati

Point of view: Climate disruption has cost the United States billions of dollars, but it has also cost many people their health, homes and jobs.

Next : I will be monitoring to see if the Biden administration is supporting the most affected communities in developing resilience plans tailored to their own needs. Policies are also needed immediately to ensure that communities of color and low-income communities benefit from the social and economic opportunities of addressing climate change.

One way to achieve this would be to create a national coalition to support hundreds of climate and sustainability innovation and justice centers in higher education institutions. These centers would train students from under-represented communities as new leaders to help generate ethical solutions. There is ample evidence that diversity is the foundation of innovation and therefore the centers should offer scholarships to students and early career scientists who are Black, Indigenous, of Color, Female, LGBTQ, first generation, low income or disabled students – groups that are generally excluded. These centers would expand participation, equity and environmental justice, and they would support basic, applied, civic and social sciences on climate and sustainability issues.

William Boyd
Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law and UCLA Institute of Environment and Sustainability
Expertise in energy law and regulation, and climate change law and policy

On environmental justice, clean energy standards and “the narrowest of majorities”

UCLA Law School

William Boyd

Point of view: President Biden has made it clear that he plans to maximize the use of his executive authority to tackle climate change. His efforts to center environmental justice in all of his climate actions indicate that he intends to engage the federal government in a way that recognizes that the climate crisis and the crisis of inequality are the same crisis.

Next : Some of these efforts may run into problems with a conservative Supreme Court, which will not rely on broad interpretations of existing authority. This means that the Biden administration will need new legislation to make the kind of progress on climate action that the problem demands. By working with the narrowest majority in Congress, there is very little room for error.

Among the most important climate laws, I would include a clean energy standard that would set aggressive national targets for the decarbonization of the electricity sector, and an infrastructure bill that would accelerate investments in transmission, electric vehicle charging infrastructure and building electrification. and other industrial sectors.

Liz Koslov
Professor of town planning, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability
Eexpertise in adaptation to the urban climate, environmental justice and the relocation of neighborhoods vulnerable to climate change

On migration linked to climate change


Liz Koslov

Point of view: I am encouraged to see the planning for the impacts of climate change on migration, internal displacement and managed resettlement – or withdrawal – in President Biden’s speech decree strengthen programs related to the resettlement of refugees. There is a great need to deepen support for community-led resettlement efforts, such as those initiated by tribal nations in Alaska, Washington and Louisiana, which allow people to move as a collective while maintaining access to traditional lands.

Next : I hope the administration will build on the work of environmental justice leaders, young climate activists and housing movements to push forward a Green New Deal, a green recovery plan in light of COVID- 19 and a Green New Deal for public housing that extends livelihood security more broadly in the face of climate change and interrelated risks.

Glen MacDonald

Emeritus professor of geography
Expertise in climate change, drought and forest fires

On the economics of climate change, the risks of executive decrees, and the National Climate Task Force


Glen MacDonald

Point of view: President Biden’s commitment to tackling climate change did not end with the day his executive orders were unveiled. On January 27, he issued orders and memoranda with far-reaching consequences, with a welcome focus on social and environmental justice. The economics are extremely remarkable, given the importance of fundamental economics in the long game of climate change mitigation. The new climate finance plan cuts government subsidies to the oil and gas industry, which has long been recognized as an important part of the transition to a low-carbon energy economy.

Next : Decrees and memoranda can be fleeting as administrations come and go. To ensure that the progress made in the fight against climate change is permanent, the administration must develop and enact legislation and congressional appropriations. I fear that with the long-standing politicization of climate change and the thoughtless partisanship we see today, it will be difficult to expand efforts on climate change beyond the executive level of government.

I will be monitoring the new national climate working group, which will include many cabinet secretaries and other senior officials, to see what comprehensive strategies are proposed and what mechanisms, especially economic ones, are put in place to support those strategies.

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