Following the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States on 20 January 2021, we take a look at some of the climate change actions already underway on Day 1 of his administration.
Joe Biden’s first acts as President include the signing of a wide range of executive orders including reversing a number of key actions carried out by the Trump administration on climate change.
The most significant of those is the re-adoption of the Paris agreement which will begin 30 days after the commitment is made. Although it’s not long since the original signing of the agreement in 2016, a lot has changed since then, and the Biden administration’s stance reflects that.
Climate change has become increasingly prominent in the news and more importantly, our lives. Two of the hottest years on record have occurred since the Paris agreement was signed, with the impacts being felt around the world with increasing incidence of wild-fires, droughts, catastrophic storms, coral bleaching and shrinking ice sheets. The concept of climate risk is now firmly embedded in investment strategies and corporate risk processes, governments have declared climate emergencies and set legally binding next zero targets.
This recognition of climate risk is reflected in the Biden administration’s messaging on climate change. Gone are the days when action was seen as the right thing to do if it suited economic goals. Climate change is now seen as a major long-term threat to both the economic and physical security of the United States and Biden’s climate envoy John Kerry is leading with that view.
How will Biden respond?
We will see how ambitious the response is over the coming months, but we know that new targets will be set which will probably include a Net Zero target for 2050 and target for clean power generation by 2035. This was almost unthinkable five years ago, but as China has recently made a 2060 net zero commitment, the USA is seemingly behind the curve.
A number of the Trump administration’s actions are also being reversed on day one suggesting that PresBiden is serious in his intent and already sending a very clear message to big business. The cancellation of the permit granted to the Keystone XL pipeline, a controversial extension to a major piece of oil and gas infrastructure, is the highest-profile but other actions are expected.
The most significant sources of emissions in the USA include road transport vehicles, methane from oil and gas production and coal-fired power plants. Trump had weakened rules on curbing emissions in all of these areas to favour business as usual. Biden is likely to reinstate rules of fuel efficiency and air quality, methane monitoring and control and clean power generation.
While it’s early days there is a sense of relief that the destructive, climate-denying, days of the Trump era are over and there are strong signs that President Biden intends to deliver on his campaign promises. Only time will tell if policy and action will quickly drive the change that the planet needs.