Policy News: October 25, 2021

In this issue:

ESA and COP26
ESA urges world leaders to limit rising temperatures to 1.5⁰ C.

White House to roll out ‘climate framework.’ Here’s what we know
The White House is poised to reveal a trove of information about U.S. climate progress ahead of COP 26.

United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity Urges Nations to Act Now
Representatives to the Convention on Biological Diversity adopted the Kumming Declaration during the first session of the 15th Conference of Parties.

Senate Appropriations Committee Releases Remaining Spending Bills for FY 2021
Bill includes $9.49 billion for the National Science Foundation.

Senate holds confirmation hearing for National Park Service nominee

Executive Branch
President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology holds second meeting of the administration, focused on climate, energy and the environment.

California lists leatherback sea turtles as endangered.

Scientific Community
White House Office of Science and Technology seeks input about how the federal government can advance equity in science and technology.

Federal Register opportunities

ESA and COP26

Ahead of COP, ESA issued a statement calling on world leaders attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP26) in Glasgow to pledge immediate action to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions that limits rising temperatures to 1.5⁰ C and to expand efforts to facilitate adaptation efforts in vulnerable regions of the world.

ESA gained official observer status for the United Nation Framework for Climate Change (UNFCC) Conference of Parties (COP26) meeting that begins Oct. 31-Nov. 12 in Glasgow, Scotland. The UN website describes the aim of the meeting, “The COP26 summit will bring parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.” Ten ESA members will attend as badged participants and they will be joined by other ecologists attending from around the world. The ESA members are attending as private scientists.

Organizing a high-level summit with hundreds of world leaders and nation representatives onsite to negotiate a climate agreement during the pandemic is proving to be extremely challenging. ESA and other official observers are still receiving confirmation of many aspects of the meeting. Holding the meeting in person is not without controversy because of the disparity in COVID vaccine availability for all attendees. Just in the past two weeks, the UN notified observer badge holders of the option to attend the summit virtually.

Nonprofits and science societies are grouped under the Research and Independent Non-Governmental Organizations (RINGO) constituency to the UNFCCC. It is one of nine NGO constituencies recognized by the UNFCCC and is the second largest constituency, comprising 25% of the 2000 admitted NGOs and includes science societies.

RINGO announced that Wednesday, November 10, is the Research into Action thematic day organized by the UNFCCC in conjunction with RINGO. On Tuesday, November 9, the UK COP26 Presidency has organized Science and Innovation Day in the UK pavilion featuring a number of side events.

ESA will post guest blogposts, podcasts and other COP related information in the next few weeks events on this page.

More News:

White House to roll out ‘climate framework.’ Here’s what we know

by Jean Chemnick, E&E News, 10/21/2021

The White House is poised to reveal a trove of information about U.S. climate progress ahead of global talks in two weeks, but it’s unclear whether it will include a detailed road map for halving emissions by 2030.

Staff with climate envoy John Kerry and the White House National Security Council told environmental advocates yesterday that the U.S. would send two overdue reports to the U.N. that outline White House decisions on emissions, climate finance and other issues. The reports, known as the “national communication” and the biennial report, were not issued during the Trump administration and are overdue.

The U.S. is also expected to provide details about the financial assistance it will provide to poor countries in the coming two years to help them cut greenhouse gas emissions and shore up their defenses to climate change. And it will issue a new report, known under the Paris Agreement as its “long-term strategy,” which lays out in general terms how it plans to zero out emissions by 2050.

The Obama administration unveiled a 2050 strategy in its final months, providing a blueprint for how the U.S. could cut emissions 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050. But the Biden administration has embraced a zero-emissions-by-2050 commitment in line with what scientists say is required to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

The White House is also drafting a “framework” for how the U.S. would meet Biden’s commitment to cut emissions 50 to 52 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. But it’s unclear if the document, which has been described by sources, will be released before negotiators meet in Glasgow, Scotland.

Climate adviser Gina McCarthy is taking the lead in developing that strategy. Yesterday the National Climate Task Force she chairs unveiled a website celebrating the actions the Biden administration has taken in the last 10 months to rein in emissions or improve adaptation and global outreach.

With Congress still debating climate legislation that could shape how, or if, the U.S. reaches the 2030 goal, some advocates say the administration might wait to reveal the framework until early next year.

But others say that Biden should provide more details on how the U.S. will meet the emissions commitment he rolled out five months ago, particularly after his climate envoy has spent the year pressing other countries to ante up ambition ahead of the conference.

“John Kerry can’t go to Glasgow without some document that says ‘here’s how we’re going to do 50 percent,’” said Robert Perciasepe, a senior adviser at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions and a former deputy EPA administrator under Obama. “So they’re going to do that.”

Perciasepe said the administration would likely include efforts to expand natural carbon sinks, the next generation of regulations for vehicle emissions, and the likelihood of new clean energy and electric vehicle tax credits.

He does not expect the White House to announce a new rule akin to the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which tried to cut emissions across the electrical system. But he does anticipate that EPA will offer new strategies for encouraging the retirement of coal-fired power, the retention of nuclear energy, and the realization of Biden’s commitment to a zero-carbon power grid by 2035.

EPA is also set to propose rules for limiting methane from for oil and gas facilities. Any announcement would likely come before Biden leaves for the Group of 20 summit in Italy on Oct. 29. He’s scheduled to travel to the climate talks from Italy.

If the House and Senate pare down their ambitious climate legislation — as appears likely — Perciasepe said the White House could seek to counter the perception that its climate agenda was failing by highlighting other progress.

“But then to be credible in Glasgow, they have to have some document, some report, something that they can point to and say, look, we have analyzed this,” he said.

McCarthy and her team have spent months working with federal agencies on Biden’s climate commitment.

Jake Schmidt, the international climate director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the nationally determined contribution to the Paris Agreement would have been the product of an interagency process that worked its way up from technical staff to deputies to principals before the White House decided on the goal of 50 to 52 percent.

Schmidt said the White House might provide more details about how it plans to reach its goal if the sprawling climate and spending bill Democrats are trying to move through budget reconciliation looks unlikely to succeed.

“My guess is there’s a lot in their pocket that they’re preparing. But given the status of stuff, they’re preparing it and they’ll decide whether or not they need to pull something out or not,” he said.

Kevin Book, who heads the research team at ClearView Energy Partners LLC, said the White House strategy is likely to be wide-ranging.

“When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” he said. “We’ve been looking at it and thinking: What’s not in it?”

The White House’s move to revise National Environmental Policy Act regulations to elevate climate change in federal rulemaking, plus its road map on climate-proofing the economy and federal procurement guidelines would all be components of the 2030 strategy, he said.

He also noted that McCarthy met with officials from numerous states this week, and the administration is likely to tout subnational action as part of meeting its commitment.

United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity Urges Nations to Act Now

Representatives to the Convention on Biological Diversity adopted the Kumming Declaration during the first session of the 15th Conference of Parties. The declaration commits parties to the convention to “ensure the development, adoption and implementation of an effective post 2020 global biodiversity framework.. to ensure that biodiversity is put on a path to recovery by 2030 at the latest, towards the full realization of the 2050 Vision of ‘Living in Harmony with Nature.’” Negotiations will continue during in-person meetings in April and May 2022.

During the meeting, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged $230 million to establish a Kunming Biodiversity Fund to support biodiversity in developing countries. Japan promised to also boost the Japan Biodiversity Fund by $17 million.

The European Union touted that the doubling of external funding for biodiversity during an associated press conference. At the same time, the United Kingdom also announced that a significant part of its increased climate funding will be directed towards biodiversity. In addition, a coalition of financial institutions, with assets of 12 trillion Euros, committed to protect and restore biodiversity through their activities and investments. 

More News:

Senate Appropriations Committee Releases Remaining Spending Bills for FY 2021

The Senate Appropriations Committee released the remaining nine spending bills for fiscal year (FY) 2022. The full House approved its spending bills this summer. The Senate released spending bills for the Departments of Agriculture and Energy in August 2021.

Congress and the president did not approve appropriations bills that fund the federal government into law before the federal government FY 2022 began Oct. 1, 2021. Federal agencies are currently being funded under a Continuing Resolution until Dec. 3 while the legislative branch completes the appropriation bills for FY2022.

The fate of the Senate bills is unclear. Senate Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-AL) said in a statement that the bills include “reckless domestic spending while shortchanging investments in our national defense.”

The Senate’s Interior-Environment spending bill also eliminates policy riders from previous years that prohibit the US Fish and Wildlife Service from listing sage grouse an endangered species and require agencies to treat biomass as carbon neutral.

The Interior-Environment bill language “applauds” the creation of a Civilian Climate Corps and includes $20 million to the National Park Service for this program. The bill report also directs the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Forest Service to invest funds for tribal climate resilience and forest restoration in the Civilian Climate Corps.

National Science Foundation

NSF receives $9.49 billion, a nearly 12% increase. This includes $7.7 billion for the research and related activities account. Within the research and related activities account, appropriations include up to $865 million for a new Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships which lawmakers and NSF hope will help the United States stay ahead of international competition in key areas such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing and climate science. This mirrors proposals in the Senate’s U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (S. 1260) and the House’s NSF for the Future Act (H.R. 2225) to create a new technology directorate in NSF. Both of these bills passed their respective chambers during summer 2021. If NSF allocates the full $865 million to the Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships, the total research and related activities funding for other NSF directorates could be around $100 million lower than FY 2021 levels.

In a summary of the bill, the Senate Appropriations Committee noted that this funding level will support approximately 2,300 additional research and education grants and 27,500 more scientists, technicians, teachers, and students compared FY 2021.

Interior Department

The US Geological Survey receives $1.493 billion, a nearly 12% increase. This includes a 20% increase for the Ecosystems Mission Area to $326 million, $84 million for the Climate Adaptation Science Centers and $27 million for the Cooperative Research Units, a $2 million increase.

Senate Appropriators allocate $1.848 billion for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, a 14.3% increase.

The National Park Service receives $3.463 billion, a 9.3% increase.

The Bureau of Land Management is funded at $1.541 billion, a 15% increase.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

NOAA receives $6.276 billion, a 15.6% increase. Research programs at NOAA are funded at $730 million, an increase of $116 million or 19 percent above the fiscal year 2021 level. The National Sea Grant College Program receives a $15 million increase to $90 million.


NASA Science is funded at $7.9 billion, including $2.2 billion is for Earth Science. This represents a 12 percent increase above the FY 2021 level to address climate research priorities, including new observations of Earth and its systems recommended by the Earth Science decadal survey.


The bill provides $10.54 billion for EPA, a 14% increase over FY 2021. A summary of the bill from the Senate Appropriations Committee notes that this funding level will enable the restoration of nearly 1,000 staff lost in the past decade. A report from the House Science Committee released earlier this year found that the EPA’s workforce declined by 3.9% during the Trump Administration and 16.6% between FY 2009 and 2020.

The EPA’s Science and Technology budget line receives a 10% increase to $803 million.

Forest Service

The US Forest Service receives $6.2 billion, a 15.8% increase. In addition, the agency’s research programs receive $315 million, a ten percent increase.

Senate Appropriators also reserve $8 million from the Forest Service for the Joint Fire Science Program and provide $8 million from the Interior Department. ESA has requested $16 million for the Joint Fire Science Program in recent years. In FY 2021, this program received only $3 million, all from the Interior Department.

More News:


Nominations: The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a confirmation hearing for Charles Sams to be the director of the National Park Service. Sams received bipartisan support from Senators on both sides of the aisle. He pledged to adopt a “zero-tolerance approach” towards harassment. A 2017 report showed that 40% of agency employees had experienced harassment or discrimination on the job within the past year. If confirmed, Sams would be the first Native American to lead the agency and the first confirmed Senate-confirmed National Park Service director since the end of the Obama administration.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Christopher Frey, Biden’s pick to be the EPA’s assistant adminstrator for research and development Wednesday, Oct. 27. Frey is a former chair of the EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) and was a member of the CASAC Particulate Manner Review Panel that former EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler dismissed in 2018. He was a prominent critic of the EPA during the Trump adminstation.

EPA: The agency and the Army Corps of Engineers issued a call for nominations for regional roundtables discussions regarding “Waters of the US.” In June 2021, EPA Administrator Michael Regan announced that that agency will repeal the Trump administration’s 2020 Navigable Waters Protection Rule, which replaced the Obama administration’s 2015 Clean Water Rule. As part of this process, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers are planning to seek public input.

The agencies are inviting stakeholders to organize interested parties and regional participants that comprise up to 15 representatives for these roundtables. Each nomination for a roundtable must include a proposed slate of participants representing perspectives of: agriculture; conservation groups; developers; drinking water/wastewater management; environmental organizations; environmental justice communities; industry; and other key interests in that region.The agencies request that organizers that would like to be considered for a roundtable submit their self-nomination letter via email to WOTUS-outreach@nullepa.gov no later than November 3, 2021. 

Legislative updates:

  • Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC) introduced a bill (H.R. 5578) to prohibit interstate shipment of steel-jaw leghold and Conibear wildlife traps. These are most commonly used traps in the U.S.

Executive Branch

White House: President Biden’s President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) held its second meeting with a focus on climate, energy and the environment. Speakers and the PCAST discussed the nation’s approach to adaptation and resilience; the need to accelerate the deployment of current and on-the-horizon technologies; the need for innovation to meet Net Zero 2050; the need to prioritize environmental justice concerns and to include marginalized communities in solutions; the national security implications of climate change; and the enormous opportunities for creating new energy sectors and jobs. Speakers included White House National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy and White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Deputy Director Jane Lubchenco.

Ahead of the COP26 climate talks in Glasglow, Scotland, the White House unveiled a new website highlighting the administration’s ‘whole-of-government’ approach to climate change.

Nominations: President Biden formally nominated Martha Williams to be director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Williams joined the Biden adminstration in January 2021 and is currently serving as the agency’s principal deputy director. She previously worked as the director of the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks from 2017 to 2020 and was an assistant professor of law at the University of Montana. This position requires Senate confirmation.

Interior: The Bureau of Land Management and the US Forest Service announced that the administration is considering a 20-year mineral withdrawal in areas of the Boundary Waters Area Watershed. The agencies will now commence a two-year process to receive public comment and conduct an environmental analysis to evaluate the potential impacts of mining on the natural and cultural resources of the Rainy River Watershed. Federal agencies will not issue new mineral leases during this review.

A mining company, Twin Metals Minnesota, applied for permits for a copper-nickel mine near Ely, MN, drawing the ire of environmentalists. President Obama recommended a mining withdrawal in this area in 2016, but the Trump administration stopped that process.

More News:


Scientific Community

OSTP: The White House Office of Science and Technology Policty launched  an “ideation challenge” seeking public input on how the federal government can advance equity in science and technology. OSTP has held five private meetings under the title, “The Time is Now,” focused respectively on women and people with gender-expansive identitiespeople with disabilitiesunderrepresented racial and ethnic groupscommunity-centered research, and institutional settings.

OSTP seeks submissions by Nov. 19 and gives options for those who submit to address any of the meetings or on another topic. Replies will be considered in the OSTP strategy for advancing equity.

More News:

Federal Register Opportunities

Upcoming Public Meetings:

Opportunities for Public Comment and Nominations:

Visit this page on ESA’s website for updates on opportunities from the Federal Register, including upcoming meetings and regulations open for public comment. 

ESA’s policy activities work to infuse ecological knowledge into national policy decisions through activities such as policy statements, Capitol Hill briefings, Congressional Visits Days, and coalition involvement. Policy News Updates are bi-monthly summaries of major environmental and science policy news. They are produced by the Public Affairs Office of the Ecological Society of America.

Send questions or comments to Alison Mize, director of public affairs, Alison@nullesa.org or Nicole Zimmerman, public affairs manager, Nicole@nullesa.org

Visit the ESA website to learn more about our activities and membership.