“This executive order I’m signing today…makes it official that climate change will be the center of our national security and foreign policy.” — President Joe Biden, January 27, 2021
The big news this week was of course the Biden Administration’s Executive Order “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.” In announcing the measure, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry said:
“Today in the order that [President Biden] will sign he makes climate central to foreign policy planning, to diplomacy, and to national security preparedness. It creates new platforms to coordinate climate action across the federal agencies and departments, sorely needed. And most importantly, it commissions a national intelligence estimate on the security implications of climate change to give all of us an even deeper understanding of the challenge. This is the first time a president has ever done that.”
We at the Center for Climate and Security applauded this big step forward in an organizational statement, and dug deeper into what some of the provisions will mean for the US national security community in our panel event yesterday on the second pillar of our Climate Security Plan for America: Assess Climate Risks. You can catch up on the video from the event here.
Soon after President Biden announced the new Executive Order, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin released a statement voicing his full support for the measure. Austin said:
“We know first-hand the risk that climate change poses to national security because it affects the work we do every day. The Department will immediately take appropriate policy actions to prioritize climate change considerations in our activities and risk assessments, to mitigate this driver of insecurity.”
While his statement noted that the Pentagon has acknowledged climate effects on the Defense Department’s missions, plans, and installations since 2010, it is noteworthy to hear from the Secretary of Defense himself so forcefully, so early on in a new administration.
In other news this week, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, President Biden’s pick as US Ambassador to the United Nations, had her confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In her opening statement, she noted, “From climate change to COVID-19, non-proliferation to mass migration, technological disruption to human rights violations, today’s problems are urgent, complex, and global.”
For our week one round-up of the Biden Administration and Climate Security, click here.