Biden picks up pen to erase trump policies

President Joe Biden pushed through a flurry of orders the moment he entered the White House, starting with rejoining the 2015 Paris climate accord, from which the US withdrew under former president Donald Trump. "We are going to combat climate change in a way we have not done so far," the new US...

Agence France-Presse

Friday, January 22, 2021

President Joe Biden pushed through a flurry of orders the moment he entered the White House, starting with rejoining the 2015 Paris climate accord, from which the US withdrew under former president Donald Trump.

"We are going to combat climate change in a way we have not done so far," the new US leader said in the Oval Office as he signed papers on the Paris deal, which was negotiated by Barack Obama when Biden was his vice president.

Biden's spokeswoman Jen Psaki said his first call to a foreign leader would be on Friday to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau - after Biden blocked the Keystone XL pipeline fiercely opposed by environmentalists but backed by Ottawa.

Biden also halted the US exit from the World Health Organization, stopped construction of Trump's cherished wall on the Mexican border and rescinded a ban on visitors from several Muslim-majority nations.

But for the Democrat who has pledged to roll back four years of environmental harm done by his predecessor Donald Trump, that's just the start.

Experts say Biden will have to rebuild the credibility the US lost in the eyes of the international community by setting concrete goals for emissions reductions on the path to net zero by 2050.

Next, he will need to realize his US$2 trillion climate plan, which would place green action at the heart of the economy and its recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, while ensuring a long term shift that cannot be rapidly undone under a future Republican president. "I think it's important that the US shows that it means business at home," said David Waskow of the World Resources Institute.

The WRI is advocating for the US to set a 45-50 percent reduction in total greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 2005 levels.

Biden has also said he will convene the leaders of major economies for a climate summit within 100 days of his inauguration.

Among the executive orders, the Biden administration submitted a letter to the UN that formally triggers a 30-day process to re-enter the Paris climate agreement.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the action and the prospect of "the leadership of United States in accelerating global efforts towards net zero" emissions, calling on the president to adopt an "ambitious" plan to fight global warming.

Biden also scrapped the Keystone XL pipeline connecting the Alberta oil sands to coastal refineries in Texas - a move that threatens to strain ties with Canada.

The Trump administration took an ax to a host of environmental regulations, and a fact sheet sent to reporters from the new administration vowed to "immediately review and take appropriate action" on all these measures.

Biden also placed a temporary moratorium on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, where Trump's administration had issued leases on its last full day in office.

Biden will present to Congress next month an infrastructure-focused "Build Back Better Recovery Plan" - separate from the US$1.9 trillion Covid and economic stimulus package he is seeking.

This is where things can potentially become more tricky, given the Democratic Party's razor thin control of the Senate. The package is expected to be similar to the US$2 trillion green climate plan Biden outlined during his campaign.

It promises "to meet the climate crisis, build a clean energy economy, address environmental injustice and create millions of good-paying union jobs."

"The challenge will be to bring Republicans on board with a clean energy infrastructure package that could systematically reduce American emissions," said Paul Bledsoe, a climate advisor to former president Bill Clinton.

Editorial: Beijing holds its breath on Biden