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Local environmental advocates hopeful for climate action under Biden administration

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Delaware Public Media
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On his first day in office, President Joe Biden recommitted the U.S. to the Paris climate agreement — and rescinded the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. Local environmental advocates are pleased.

Biden got a running start reversing the Trump administration's environmental legacy with a series of executive orders last week. 

“We have really suffered the past four years with all of the rollbacks from the past administration, and we really need to take action,” said Sherri Evans-Stanton, director of the Delaware chapter of the Sierra Club. 

New Castle County-based environmental justice advocate Penny Dryden says she’s hoping for regulations at the local, state and federal level that tackle air pollution — and a seat at the table for the people most impacted.

“We want to see policies that help reduce emissions and improve our air quality,” Dryden said, “because those are our real problems on the ground.”

John Sykes is president of Delaware Interfaith Power and Light, which advocates for policies that combat climate change. Sykes says his group is happy that Biden is making climate change a priority.

“What this will do is give us more tools and more impetus to get more work done now, which we have lost in the last four years,” Sykes said.  

Under the Paris agreement, the U.S. committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 26 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. 

Sykes wants to see the U.S. on track to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 — which the International Panel on Climate Change has said is necessary for the world to do to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Evans-Stanton says the Delaware Sierra Club also wants to see the U.S. raise its emissions reduction commitment under the Paris agreement. 

“We feel that the previous administration has completely abandoned the global fight against the climate crisis,” she said. “So we are calling on the Biden Administration to match the European Union’s newly strengthened climate targets by aiming to reduce the U.S. emissions by at least 50 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.”

Evans-Stanton says the country’s emissions reduction goals under the Paris agreement will be enacted by the states. 

“Delaware has ignored the impacts from climate change for years,” she said. “We need a significant commitment from the Governor and the legislature to start addressing climate change in Delaware.”

The state engaged the public throughout 2020 to create a state Climate Action Plan. Delaware is projected to narrowly miss its greenhouse gas emissions reduction target for 2025.

Delaware has the lowest mean elevation of any state. According to the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), Delaware is already experiencing higher temperatures, increasing rainfall and rising sea levels. These impacts are expected to intensify in the future.  

The Delaware Sierra Club advocates for a more ambitious version of the state’s renewable portfolio standards, an extension of which passed the state Senate last week. The group also wants to see legislative or executive action to reduce transportation-based emissions in Delaware.

Chris Bason, executive director of the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays, supports President Biden’s initial environmental actions.

“I think it set strong leadership for his administration’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gases and create a green economy,” Bason said.

Bason says the recommitment to the Paris climate agreement has practical implications for Delaware in terms of the changes the state needs to make to its energy sources, and in terms of the climate change impacts the state will see. 

“We have a lot to consider in that regard because of how close we are to sea level and how close we live to the coast,” he said.

 

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