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America’s new president’s first steps: Action on climate and unpopular pipeline

Source: Pixabay / Pexels

Among a series of significant policy shifts, the new White House administration is rejoining the Paris agreement and revoking construction permits for the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline.

Day 1: Biden signs a series of executive orders aimed at tackling climate crisis

The 46th President of the United States of America, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr., has moved to reinstate the US to the Paris climate agreement just hours after being sworn in as president, as his administration rolls out a host of executive orders aimed at tackling the climate crisis. Biden’s executive action, signed in the White House on Wednesday, will see the US rejoin the international effort curb the dangerous heating of the planet, following a 30-day notice period. The US, the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases, was withdrawn from the Paris deal under Donald Trump. Biden is also set to block the Keystone XL pipeline, a bitterly contested project that would bring huge quantities of oil from Canada to the US to be refined. — TheGuardian

In the Paris Agreement, 195 countries agreed to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases through mitigation, adaptation and resilience. Under the last president, the United States withdrew from the accord.
Back on board with Paris accord: this infographic highlights the key elements of the Paris Agreement. In the Paris Agreement, 195 countries agreed to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases through mitigation, adaptation and resilience. Under the last president, the United States withdrew from the accord. Source: ActiveSustainability.com

Rejoining the Paris climate accords

Joe Biden wasted little time setting a new tone on climate change, an issue he has pledged to make a centrepiece of his presidency. As promised throughout the campaign and after, Biden began the process of bringing the nation back into the Paris climate agreement on his first day in office.

Rejoining the Paris agreement, which will officially take a few more weeks, doesn’t create any new binding climate policies in itself. But it will require the US to submit revamped emissions targets before the UN climate conference later this year, as well as a plan for deep reductions by mid-century. 

The grand hope is that the world’s second largest emitter returning to the international fold will build more momentum behind the global goal of preventing 2 ̊C of warming. After four years under Trump, however, the US will need to repair extensive damage to its international relationships and achieve real progress on its domestic climate policies before it will be seen as a leader rather than laggard on the issue.

Source: TechnologyReview

Biden also issued a sweeping executive order on climate change that directed federal agencies to begin reviewing, and where appropriate reversing, the Trump administration's efforts to loosen or unravel dozens of energy and environmental policies.
Cancelling Keystone XL Pipeline was one of the first executive orders signed. Biden also issued a sweeping executive order on climate change that directed federal agencies to begin reviewing, and where appropriate reversing, the Trump administration’s efforts to loosen or unravel dozens of energy and environmental policies. Source: Shannon Patrick 17/Wikipedia/CC BY 2.0

President Biden cancels controversial Keystone XL pipeline

President Biden also issued a sweeping executive order on climate change that directed federal agencies to begin reviewing, and where appropriate reversing, the Trump administration’s efforts to loosen or unravel dozens of energy and environmental policies.

It revoked the construction permit for the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline, which would transport crude oil from Canada to Illinois. In addition, it called on agencies to start the process of creating tighter rules on methane emissions from the oil and gas industry; enacting new vehicle fuel economy standards; setting stricter appliance- and building-efficiency standards; and establishing what’s known as a "social cost" of carbon, nitrous oxide & methane, determinations used to more accurately evaluate the cost and benefits of federal policies by incorporating the environmental effects of these greenhouses gases.

Separately, the order directs the Secretary of the Interior to review the Trump administration’s efforts to remove land from, and allow oil and gas exploration on or near national monuments, including Bear Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. It also asks the department to halt and evaluate the environmental impacts of drilling plans in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The new administration plans to enact more aggressive action on climate change on Jan. 27, including signing an executive order that puts the issue at the forefront of domestic and national security policy, the Washington Post reported

Each of these steps could provide greater regulatory certainty to states, companies and investors, and otherwise boost the markets for a variety of climate tech and clean energy industries. But accelerating US emissions cuts enough to meet the Paris goals – or to achieve Biden’s own targets of carbon-free electricity by 2035 and net-zero emissions economy-wide by 2050 – will require pushing stricter climate legislation through Congress. And it’s going to remain tricky to enact anything too ambitious with only a slim Democratic majority in the Senate. 

Source: TechnologyReview 

Some of Biden’s other climate and environmental rollbacks

Among President Joe Biden’s Day One priorities were to begin rolling back climate and environmental policies of the previous administration, many of which were rollbacks of Obama-era or earlier rules, reported CNN on Wednesday.

Biden’s advisers have compiled a list of more than 100 rules and policies developed by the Trump administration that it sees as targets for review, CNN has learnedEach of the policies relate to environmental conservation and climate change and are linked to an executive order Biden intends to sign on public health and the environment.

Many items on the list are key targets of criticism by the environmental groups that accused the Trump administration of disregarding the hazards of climate change and being overly sympathetic to the wishes of industry.

The list for review includes a policy President Donald Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency called "the largest deregulatory initiative of this administration": the replacement of Obama-era fuel efficiency rules for cars

  • It also targets the administration’s decision that would allow roads and logging in a pristine part of the country’s largest national forest, and Trump’s changes that would gum up the process of protecting vulnerable flora and fauna with the Endangered Species Act.
  • Energy efficiency limits, he said, complicated washing his "beautiful hair properly" under weak showerheads, and drew complaints and rendered dishwashers ineffective. His energy secretary overturned a tightening of lightbulb rules after the President told his crowds new lightbulb technology are the reason "I always look orange."

Some of the policies may be easier than others to halt, prevent from taking effect, or overturn.

  • A May 2020 policy on mineral ownership in part of North Dakota, for example, was a legal memorandum, and could be reversed with an updated legal memorandum by Biden appointees. 
  • The administration also overturned through legal memorandum a 25-year-old policy protecting the sand along protected shoreline from being sold off.

The bulk of the Biden team’s nine-page list may be complicated to rescind or reverse because the Trump administration wrote them into formal regulations. There are other avenues the Biden administration could pursue, though.

With a Democratic majority, however slim, in both houses of Congress, the administration could also look to Capitol Hill for help. The Congressional Review Act would allow lawmakers and Biden to together overturn agency rules in recent months. Trump and the Republican majorities in Congress used the rule to roll back moves by the Obama administration soon after he took office.

It could also choose to side with the groups challenging virtually every major environmental and energy decision by the Trump administration in court.

It won’t have to look far, either. Perhaps the most recent challenge, this time to roll back of bird protections, was filed by a coalition of environmental groups on Tuesday — the day before Biden took office.

Source: CNN

Biden signs 15 executive orders on Day 1 President Joe Biden signed 15 executive orders on his first day in office some aimed at undoing some of President Trump's policies. Source: Facebook/USA Today
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