Biden to Spend $1 Billion in Taxpayer Funds to Advance 'Equitable Access to Trees'

Admin says investment will help achieve 'environmental justice,' fight climate change

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden participate in a tree planting ceremony on October 24, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
April 13, 2023

The Biden administration is spending up to $1 billion in taxpayer funds to promote "equitable access to trees," an effort it says will "advance environmental justice" and fight climate change.

President Joe Biden's Agriculture Department on Wednesday announced the funding, which it called a "historic investment in our nation's urban tree canopy." The money is available to universities, nonprofits, and states working to "increase tree cover in urban spaces and boost equitable access to nature" and "advance environmental justice by mitigating the impact of climate change on communities who lack tree cover." California, for example, is set to receive $43 million, the program's largest allocation.

Biden has already allocated hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to tackle what he calls the "climate crisis" with "the urgency that science demands." In many cases, however, that spending has gone beyond more traditional investments into alternative energy infrastructure and technology. After Biden in January 2021 issued an executive order calling on all government agencies to "combat the climate crisis with bold, progressive action," federal entities that have seemingly little to do with the issue—such as the Department of Veterans Affairs—released plans meant to increase "climate adaptation and resilience."

But not all of Biden's climate spending will stay in the United States. The Democrat's U.S. Agency for International Development last year unveiled its 2022-2030 climate strategy, which outlines a $150 billion "whole-of-agency approach" to building an "equitable world with net-zero greenhouse gas emissions." The effort includes a pledge to inspire and support young climate activists in developing countries—and help those activists address the "broad range of climate-related mental health conditions" they may suffer from, including "eco-anxiety." In March, meanwhile, the agency announced a grant notice seeking proposals for a "Disability-Inclusive Climate Action" project in Tajikistan, which aims to ensure disabled people in the Central Asian nation are included "in the development of climate change response and mitigation policies."

Biden's Agriculture Department says its equitable tree access investments "go beyond planting trees in tree wells" and will "support lasting community relationships and engagements that strengthen communities." The spending is part of the administration's Justice40 Initiative, which calls for "40 percent of the overall benefits of certain federal investments flow to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution."

The department's Wednesday announcement includes supportive quotes from New Jersey Democratic senator Cory Booker, who is best known for forcing his girlfriend to endorse his failed presidential bid, and senior adviser to the president for Clean Energy Innovation and Implementation John Podesta, who has praised China's efforts to combat climate change and encouraged the communist nation to "build American infrastructure."

"This historic investment will help us tackle the most pernicious effects of climate change, move us closer to remedying environmental justice in our communities, and pay dividends for generations to come," Booker said.