Shortly after his inauguration, Joe Biden, the 46th President of the United States, announced that the country would return to the climate change fight by rejoining the Paris Climate Accord. The announcement was the centerpiece of a multitude of orders signed on his first day in office, orders all aimed at restoring America’s role in combatting global warming.
Speaking from behind his desk in the Oval Office, the incoming President said he was starting his Presidency by keeping the promises he made to the American people.
Not only did Biden attach his signature to numerous executive orders, memos, and directives, he announced a review of all actions taken by his predecessor to weaken climate change protections. The President also revoked TC Energy’s permit for undertaking the Keystone XL oil pipeline project and signed a moratorium on petroleum leasing activities in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; an area opened for exploration and exploitation by Trump’s administration.
Major Reversal of Policy
The orders signal the beginning of a major reversal of policies established by the Trump administration. The U.S, next to China, is the major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.
President Biden has committed to putting the United States back on track to accomplish net zero emissions by 2050. By doing so, the U.S. will match the global cuts in emissions that scientists say are necessary to avoid what could be a devastating impact on global warming. It will be essential for the country to curb its consumption of fossil fuels, and invest in clean energy technology.
Meeting this goal will not be easy. There are political divisions and opposition from fossil fuel companies that need to be overcome. John Podesta, an advisor to former President Obama, says the country has been affected by having an anti-climate change President in the Oval office.
The order signed by Biden requires government agencies to consider a revision to current vehicle fuel efficiency standards. As well as this mandate, Biden’s order requires a study of the impact of re-expanding areas surrounding national wilderness monuments that were reduced in size during the previous administration.
Change will be Challenging
Environmentalists are overjoyed with Biden’s orders, not so industry groups and conservatives who have voiced criticism of them. Gov. Mike Dunleavy, the Republican Governor of Alaska has openly mocked the decision to shut-down oil and gas work in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, saying that it appears as if Biden is attempting to make good on his promise to turn the state into one huge national park.
According to the American Petroleum Institute, blocking the pipeline was a backward step. They went on to say that the move appears to be misguided as it will hamper the recovery of America, undermine the countries energy security, and strain relations with Canada, one of America’s strongest allies.
Hard Work Has Just Started
America’s return to cooperation on global climate change has been welcomed by international counterparts and climate advocates. However, these entities have expressed some pessimism. Will America stay the course or not? Can America overcome its problems with domestic turmoil?
Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Accord on Climate Change in late 2020. Former U.N. climate chief, Christiana Figueres, says the U.S. is and continues to be, the only country that has withdrawn from the accord. By definition, the move made the United States the pariah of the multinational, multilateral agreement.
Ms. Figueres believes that President Biden can regain credibility for the country by taking aggressive climate change action at home.
The director of the National Economic Council, Mr. Brian Deese, has said the U.S. hopes to encourage big contributors to the problem of emissions to demonstrate their ability to re-enter the world stage and show leadership.
Peter Betts is an associate fellow at Chatham House, a London-based think tank. Betts led the negotiations for the E.U. at the time the Paris Accord was struck. He said “The United States will have to match promises with financial commitments as well.”
The U.S., under the administration of President Obama, pledged $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund. The money in the fund is dedicated to helping counties that cannot help themselves fight climate change. To date, only a third of the money has been delivered.
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