WASHINGTON – President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Wednesday reiterated the United States to the Paris climate agreement, the international agreement designed to prevent catastrophic global warming, and ordered federal agencies to begin reviewing and reinstate over 100 weakened or canceled environmental regulations. back by former President Donald J. Trump.
These steps represent a first step in healing one of the deepest divisions between the United States and the rest of the world after Mr. Trump defiantly rejected the Paris Pact and appeared to appreciate the efforts of his administration. to weaken or cancel the main national climate policies.
Mr Biden has made tackling the climate crisis one of his highest priorities. In addition to curbing global warming, he pledged that ending the coronavirus pandemic, restoring the economy and tackling racial injustice would be the main causes of his administration.
“We are going to tackle climate change in a way we weren’t doing before,” Biden said in the Oval Office Wednesday night, just before signing the orders. Even so, he warned, “These are only executive actions. They’re important, but we’re going to need legislation for a lot of the things we’re going to do.
Foreign leaders hailed Mr. Biden’s first steps as a powerful signal that the United States, the largest contributor to global warming in history, intends to restart efforts to reduce pollution levels and restore the international order disrupted by Mr. Trump. “Welcome back to the Paris Agreement!” Emmanuel Macron, the President of France, said in a Twitter message.
Under the Paris Agreement, nearly 200 countries have pledged to reduce emissions from global warming to avoid the most disastrous consequences of climate change. A letter to the United Nations signed by Mr. Biden on Wednesday officially kicks off the 30-day process to bring the United States back into the deal.
But analysts have warned that Mr Biden’s actions on day one must be quickly followed by a series of aggressive national climate policies to dramatically reduce the country’s emissions of global warming pollution from tailpipes, chimneys and oil and gas wells.
Also on Wednesday, Biden canceled the building permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have transported carbon-heavy oil from the Canadian tar sands to the Gulf Coast. Earlier today, TC Energy, a Canadian company, said it was suspending work on the line.
But the lengthy legal process to reverse most of Mr. Trump’s environmental setbacks and replace them with new regulations could take many years, and will likely be littered with political landmines if Republicans or business groups fight against them. them.
Even before Mr Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday, some Republicans spoke out against his new political stance.
“The policies of President-elect Biden from day one have hurt American workers and our economy,” West Virginia Senator Shelley Moore Capito said in a statement.
In another early indication of the headwinds Mr. Biden could face in Congress, Senator Steve Daines, a Republican from Montana, said he intends to introduce a resolution requiring the president to seek advice and Senate consent to the Paris Agreement, and another bill that would authorize Congress through the Keystone pipeline over Mr. Biden’s objections.
The country’s largest business lobby, the United States Chamber of Commerce, which opposed much of former President Barack Obama’s environmental agenda, has shown support for the return of the Paris agreement , but also his opposition to the suppression of the Keystone project.
“It is essential that the United States re-establish its leadership role in international efforts to address the climate challenge,” said Marty Durbin, president of the Chamber’s Global Energy Institute. But he said of the Keystone Project: “It will hurt consumers and put thousands of Americans out of the building industry.”
Mr Biden has set an ambitious goal for the United States: to eliminate carbon dioxide emissions from the electric power sector by 2035 and from the entire economy by 2050. However, it is far from certain that the United States could achieve these goals in the absence of new congressional legislation – a difficult prospect, given the narrow majority of Democrats in the Senate.
Scientists have said that this means Mr Biden will have to pass more stringent regulations than those put in place by Mr Obama and overruled by Mr Trump.
“There is still a very big job to do,” said Michael Oppenheimer, professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University. He noted that United Nations climate science reports have called for net zero global emissions by 2050.
Mr Biden on Wednesday ordered federal agencies to review all decisions of the Trump administration over the past four years “that were harmful to public health, harmful to the environment, not supported by the best available science, or otherwise not in the national interest ”.
This includes the reinstatement of regulations, loosened by Mr. Trump, that restrict greenhouse emissions from automobile tailpipes and methane leaks from oil and gas wells, as well as the replacement of gas standards. energy efficiency for appliances and buildings.
Dr Oppenheimer noted that reversing and replacing these measures will take time. “We just lost four years,” he said. And the new rules “must be stricter than the previous rules, otherwise the time lost by the Trump administration will not be regained,” said Dr Oppenheimer.
The urgency is both political and existential. Numerous scientific reports have concluded that the first irreversible effects of climate change have already started to spread around the world, including rising sea levels, record forest fires and more devastating storms. This month, scientists announced that 2020 was tied with 2016 for the hottest year on record.
In November, representatives of countries participating in the Paris Agreement are due to meet at a United Nations summit in Glasgow to announce new tough targets to reduce their national emissions. The objectives are intended to be more ambitious than those initially included in the 2015 Paris Agreement.
Mr. Obama had promised that the United States would reduce its emissions from global warming throughout the economy by about 28% from 2005 levels by 2025.
The United States is only halfway to meeting Mr. Obama’s target, but the Biden administration will be under intense and almost immediate pressure to achieve the target.
When it does, perhaps as early as June, the administration will probably not be at the head of the world but to catch up. Britain and the European Union have set new targets for reducing carbon emissions, and China has announced that it will aim to reach net zero emissions by 2060.
Climate policy experts said they were confident Mr Biden – through a combination of new regulations, increased spending on renewable energy and support for the state’s efforts to move away from gas production coal-fired electricity – could meet and exceed the country’s initial target in Paris.
Most have suggested that the Biden administration could set a new target between 40% and 50% below 2005 levels by 2030.
Other major economies will be following the Biden administration closely to see what specific policy measures the new president is planning ahead of the Glasgow meeting.
“China has set its concrete target but not the concrete steps to achieve it,” said Byford Tsang, an analyst who focuses on China’s climate policy at E3G, a London-based research organization. “So if Biden sets a goal and takes concrete action, it could put pressure on China.”
The Obama administration, which achieved its goal in relative secrecy, mistakenly assured foreign diplomats in 2015 that a subsequent administration could not dismantle regulatory policies to reduce the climate pollution upon which that goal depended.
Now the negotiators have said they had a ‘cheat on me once, shame on you; cheat on me twice, shame on me ”attitude towards the United States and insists that the Biden administration prove it can do what it claims.
“They say confidence comes on foot and comes back on horseback,” said Jules Kortenhorst, CEO of the Rocky Mountain Institute, a research organization focused on transforming the global energy economy. “The world has missed the United States in this incredibly important setting over the past few years. The rebuilding of confidence will come on foot for Biden in the same way confidence in the United States under Trump left on horseback.