Hours after taking the oath of office as President of the United States, Joe Biden made his first important steps in the White House, including signing an executive order to join the Paris climate agreement.
As a result, the United States will officially revert to the historic commitment to limit warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius in 30 days. The United States left the agreement on November 4, 2020, the day after the presidential election, under the leadership of former President Donald Trump.
“A cry of survival comes from [the] planet itself, ”Biden said in his inaugural speech, “A cry that cannot be more desperate or clearer.”
The Paris Agreement has always been more of a symbolic commitment than a substantive commitment. For the Trump administration, abandon the deal indicated that the The United States was abandoning its role as a climate leader to overtake rather than being a nation that relies on fossil fuel extraction. Now, under the Biden administration, the move – part of a flurry of early actions overturning Trump’s agenda on everything from immigration to responding to the pandemic – symbolizes that the country is more determined than ever to tackle the climate crisis.
Even before Biden signed the decree, the climate community began to praise it.
“Welcome back to the Paris climate agreement,” French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted.
“By joining the Paris Agreement, President Biden will immediately signal that this is a new day for the US engagement on climate change,” said Helen Mountford, vice president of climate and economics at World Resources Institute, in a press release. “To regain confidence and credibility, this action must be followed by an ambitious US climate target for 2030 and a significant increase in climate finance for vulnerable countries.”
The need for action has never been more urgent as the world is on track for catastrophic global warming. over 3 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels if nothing changes. Last week, scientists announced that 2020 effectively equals 2016 as hottest year on record. In the United States, last year’s barrage of hurricanes and wildfires caused a record number of disasters causing at least $ 1 billion in damage.
Biden campaigned on the most aggressive climate platform of any presidential candidate, repeatedly pledging to join the Paris accord on the first day of his presidency.
Since Biden won the election, the new administration has appointed addressing climate change among its top priorities and immediately began to lay the groundwork for sweeping changes.
The transition team announced in November that John Kerry, Barack Obama’s former secretary of state, would take on the newly created post of presidential special climate envoy. In this role, Kerry will oversee the country’s international climate negotiations, including its participation in the Paris Agreement.
Then, in December, the transition team unveiled plans for a newly-created domestic climate policy office in the White House, directed by Gina McCarthy, Former head of the Obama Environmental Protection Agency.
Although Democrats now run the Senate by a narrow majority, Biden is expected to rely more on executive orders and new regulations to implement his climate agenda. Passing bold legislation by a heavily divided Congress, where many Republican members still question the urgency of the crisis and support continued dependence on fossil fuels, should be a tall order.
As part of Biden’s initial climate actions, he’s asking federal agencies to review various climate rules finalized under the previous administration by relaxing fuel economy and vehicle emissions standards, methane emissions standards and efficiency standards for devices and buildings. It also reinstates the Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases and revokes the presidential permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.