Ready for 100 Days

The first three months of the Biden-Harris administration will be crucial for climate

By Michael Brune

November 16, 2020


Vice President–Elect Kamala Harris and President-Elect Joe Biden stand on stage with family on November 7, 2020, in Wilmington, Delaware. | Photo by AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

We did it. Together, we elected a president who ran on the strongest climate and environmental justice platform ever advanced by a presidential ticket. The Sierra Club’s largest-ever political mobilization helped President-Elect Joe Biden beat Donald Trump. The popular-vote percentage margin of victory was the biggest against an incumbent president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt walloped Herbert Hoover in 1932. And Kamala Harris will become the first woman, the first Black person, and the first Indian American to hold the office of vice president. 

We deserve to celebrate the hard work that made this victory possible. Once again, we have proved that we are stronger together. With our movement partners, we’ve sent Joe Biden to the White House with a decisive mandate to address the climate crisis, build an inclusive economy, and repair our democracy so that everyone’s vote is counted—because everyone counts. 

But make no mistake: Our movement still needs to fight for the future we and our children deserve. The Trump administration didn’t create the climate crisis, though it did its damnedest to make it worse. Just installing a new administration won’t end the crisis, either. There are still too many politicians and corporate executives ready to let people die and homes burn to keep the deadly but profitable fossil fuel economy in place. Similarly, systemic racism, misogyny, xenophobia, economic inequality, and voter suppression didn’t begin and won’t end with the Trump administration. 

Still, the Biden administration represents a crucial opening to mend our democracy and our economy, avert climate catastrophe, and ensure that people from all backgrounds have equal access to clean air and clean water and opportunities to explore wild nature. Biden and Harris’s first 100 days offer an opportunity to set the agenda for the rest of the administration’s time in office. 

On the campaign trail, Biden pledged to rejoin the Paris Agreement, institute new methane-pollution limits on oil and gas operations, develop new fuel-economy standards, permanently protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other wilderness areas, ban new oil and gas leasing on public lands and waters, and require public companies to disclose their greenhouse gas emissions and climate-related financial risks—all on day one of his presidency.

I’m not sure that Biden, or any human being, could check every item off that to-do list within 24 hours of being sworn in. It’s up to us to hold him and his new administration accountable so that he achieves as much as possible as quickly as possible in the early days of 2021. 

Our country won’t just be facing a climate crisis come Inauguration Day. Owing to Trump’s incompetence, we’re struggling with a surging pandemic and an economic recession that’s pushed millions out of work. As a nation, we’ll still be grappling with the systemic racism that devalues the lives of Black, brown, and Indigenous people and leaves their communities disproportionately affected by pollution and climate chaos. Though Trump lost, it’s clear that his brand of resentment continues to resonate with millions of Americans. 

Luckily, we have a pathway out of crisis. For months, Sierra Club staffers have been working with environmental policy experts and our environmental justice partners to craft a bold agenda for the new administration. It includes tackling the climate crisis via coordinated action across all arms of the federal government as well as repairing the damage the Trump administration inflicted on our public lands and wildlife. 

We have no time to waste. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2018 report, by the time Biden takes office, we will have just nine years to limit global warming to 1.5°C and have the chance to avoid the vicious storms, droughts, floods, and fires that would come with a hotter Earth. The grassroots activism that propelled Biden and Harris to the White House will need to be sustained if we are to see any of our goals realized. 

With more than 11 million Americans unemployed, solving the climate crisis represents our best opportunity to rebuild lives and livelihoods. While it’s daunting to consider all that needs to be done, it’s also exciting to have so many pathways to progress. Let’s start by making the most of the Biden-Harris administration’s first 100 days.