Just hours after he was sworn in as President of the United States, Joe Biden took his first significant steps in the White House, including signing an executive order to resume the Paris Climate Agreement.
As a result, the US will officially revert to its historic commitment to limit warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius in 30 days. The US left the deal on November 4, 2020, one day after the presidential election, under the leadership of former President Donald Trump.
“A cry for survival comes from [the] Planet itself, “said Biden in his inaugural address,” a cry that cannot be more desperate or clearer. “
The Paris Agreement has always been a symbolic rather than a substantive commitment. For the Trump administration, the repeal of the deal meant that the US was giving up its role as climate leader to instead double down on being a fossil fuel-dependent nation. Now, under Biden’s administration, the move – part of a series of early measures reversing Trump’s agenda from immigration to pandemic – symbolizes the country’s commitment to tackling the climate crisis more than ever.
Even before Biden signed the executive order, the climate community began garnering praise.
“Welcome back to the Paris Climate Agreement,” tweeted French President Emmanuel Macron.
“With the re-entry into the Paris Agreement, President Biden will immediately signal that it is a new day for US commitment to climate change,” said Helen Mountford, vice president of climate and economics at the World Resources Institute, in a statement. “To regain trust and credibility, this action must be followed by an ambitious US climate target for 2030 and climate finance for endangered countries must be significantly expanded.”
The need for action has never been more urgent as the world is on the way to catastrophic warming of more than 3 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels if nothing changes. Last week, scientists announced that 2020 effectively linked 2016 as the warmest year on record. In the United States, the flood of hurricanes and forest fires last year resulted in a record number of disasters causing at least $ 1 billion in damage.
Biden campaigned on a presidential candidate’s most aggressive climate platform and repeatedly pledged to rejoin the Paris Agreement on the first day of his presidency.
Since Biden won the election, the new government has made tackling climate change a top priority and immediately started laying the groundwork for major change.
The transition team announced in November that John Kerry, Barack Obama’s former foreign secretary, would serve in the newly created position of the President’s Special Envoy on Climate. In this role, Kerry will oversee the country’s international climate negotiations, including its participation in the Paris Agreement.
In December, the transition team unveiled plans for a newly created home affairs office in the White House, led by Gina McCarthy, former head of the Obama Environmental Protection Agency.
Although the Democrats now run the Senate by a narrow majority, Biden is expected to rely more heavily on executive ordinances and new regulations in executing his climate change agenda. Passing bold laws through a sharply divided Congress, in which many Republican members still question the urgency of the crisis and support continued reliance on fossil fuels, is expected to be a major challenge.
As part of Biden’s initial climate action, he’s instructing federal agencies to review various climate rules set under the previous government to relax vehicle fuel consumption and emissions standards, methane emission standards, and equipment and building efficiency standards. He is also re-establishing the Interagency Working Group on the Social Costs of Greenhouse Gases and revoking the President’s approval for the Keystone XL Oil Pipeline.