President Joe Biden pledged to address climate change at COP26, a global climate conference held in Scotland in November 2021. Days later, his administration oversaw one of the biggest gas and oil lease sales in U.S. history. The lease goes against Biden’s promises to reduce global pollution and could cause even more environmental harm.

The lease saw 80 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico put up for auction for fracking. Fracking involves drilling natural gas from rocks, and it can create air and water pollution. Biden has promised to slash pollution in half by 2030, cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50 to 52% by 2030, and quadruple international climate aid. Many are now suggesting that the lease undermines these pledges. 

“If the Biden administration wants to be serious about its promise to show the U.S. climate leadership,” said Steven Feit, senior attorney at the Center for International Environmental Law, to the Guardian, “it must first clean up its own backyard.”

The United States is the second-largest global pollution contributor, according to research group Carbon Brief, so undermining these pledges threatens climate progress internationally. “If the Biden administration wants to be serious about its promise to show the U.S. climate leadership,” said Steven Feit, senior attorney at the Center for International Environmental Law, to the Guardian, “it must first clean up its own backyard.”

While Biden did halt oil and gas leasing, this decision was overturned by the Supreme Court last year. But some environmentalists argue that the Justice Department could have paused the recent lease sale while the decision is being appealed.

“It does not make sense to put oil profits over the future of this planet,” said Christy Goldfuss, the senior vice president for energy and environment policy at the Center for American Progress, to NPR. “The Biden administration has to take control over the leasing program with its authority to fulfill promises to the current and future communities in America. We cannot afford this risky approach to managing America’s lands and ocean.”