Climate Change: A New Direction

Climate change is not just an environmental issue, it is an economic issue.  It is not an event scheduled to take place in the future; it is happening now.  The recent increase in costly extreme weather events, ranging from wildfires in California, freezing temperatures in Texas to destructive hurricanes along the Gulf and East coasts, has provided a signal to many companies and levels of government of the near-term risks associated with climate change and the need to respond.  The Biden administration has pledged to accelerate the federal government’s response to climate change.

On January 20, 2021, his first day of office, President Biden signaled his commitment to address climate change by rejoining the Paris Agreement,1 revoking the permit for Keystone XL pipeline, and establishing a moratorium on federal leases in the Artic Wildlife Refuge.2  One week later, on January 27, 2021, President Biden further addressed climate change and scientific integrity by issuing two Executive Orders and a Memorandum.3  The orders advance President Biden’s ambitious goals empowering the United States “to lead a clean energy revolution that achieves a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035 and puts the United States on an irreversible path to a net-zero economy by 2050.”4

This new direction in addressing climate change is not limited to the federal government as many state and local governments begin to respond to climate change as well.  For example, in June 2020, Governor Roy Cooper released the North Carolina Climate Risk Assessment and Resilience Plan, an extensive report evaluating North Carolina’s present and future vulnerabilities and evaluating strategies to address climate-related hazards.5

As federal, state and local governments begin to more comprehensively address climate change, prudent companies will not only evaluate their risks but will also take steps to manage these risks and gain a competitive advantage.  Given the changing risk paradigm, sensible corporate decision makers have to ask:  “Is the new reality of climate change a potential threat to our business performance?  What is our risk?  How do we manage and avoid or limit this risk? What opportunities may be on the horizon?”

Footnotes

1  The White House, Paris Climate Agreement (Jan. 20, 2021), https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/01/20/paris-climate-agreement/.

2  The White House, Executive Order on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis §§ 4, 6 (Jan. 20, 2021), https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/01/20/executive-order-protecting-public-health-and-environment-and-restoring-science-to-tackle-climate-crisis/.

3  The White House, FACT SHEET: President Biden Takes Executive Actions to Tackle the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, Create Jobs, and Restore Scientific Integrity Across Federal Government (Jan. 27, 2021), https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/01/27/fact-sheet-president-biden-takes-executive-actions-to-tackle-the-climate-crisis-at-home-and-abroad-create-jobs-and-restore-scientific-integrity-across-federal-government/.

4   Id.

5   NC Charts New Course on Climate Change (Feb. 26, 2021), https://www.coastalreview.org/2021/02/nc-charts-new-course-on-climate-change/.

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