The world is watching closely to see what action the U.S. takes on climate change. Here’s what we can expect.
By Cyrus Jarvis.
The Biden-Harris administration entered office on Tuesday with a strong mandate to act on the climate crisis. Biden will be signing a series of executive orders over the next 10 days, aimed at reversing many of Trump’s decisions. The president’s plan is more moderate than the Green New Deal proposed by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but, if enacted, it will still be the most ambitious climate strategy ever attempted by the U.S. government. Here’s what we can expect from the new president.
FIRST EXECUTIVE ORDERS
Biden confirmed long ago that he plans to rejoin the 2015 Paris Agreement on the first day of his presidency. The agreement’s purpose is to limit average global temperature increases to 1.5°C, which would prevent catastrophic damage to the Earth. Rejoining the accord will likely trigger a 30-day requirement for the U.S. to then submit its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC)–an enhanced commitment to climate action. He has already canceled the Keystone XL pipeline, a $9 billion project intended to carry 850,000 barrels of crude oil a day, and stretching about 1,200 miles from Alberta to Nebraska. Indigenous groups such as the Saik’uz First Nation have opposed the pipeline for years, concerned about its climate impacts and potential to harm wildlife and pollute drinking water.
NET-ZERO EMISSIONS BY 2050
Biden is proposing to make U.S. electricity 100% carbon-free by 2035, in order to achieve a goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. Net-zero means that any emissions will be balanced out by an effort to remove the equivalent amount from the atmosphere. This will see Australia become increasingly isolated in its refusal to commit to any moves that will mitigate climate change, as the world sets tougher targets for climate action and heads towards net-zero emissions. Over the past few months, the European Union, China, Japan, and South Korea all made commitments towards achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 and, along with a number of smaller countries that have made comparable commitments, account for 48% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
These announcements came well before the U.S. presidential election outcome, meaning that Biden could now throw this momentum towards a bigger landslide of higher climate ambition.
A key part of Biden’s economic recovery plan to Build Back Better includes addressing environmental injustice and creating an equitable, clean future. Part of this plan is to upgrade 4 million buildings and homes to be more energy-efficient, which will in turn drive down emissions. Another aspect of the plan is to spend heavily on zero-emissions public transportation options, and invest in electric vehicle manufacturing and charging points, as well as providing consumers with financial incentives to trade up for cleaner cars. These, together with the target of clean American-made energy by 2035, will create millions of green union jobs, which, under the Biden-Harris administration, will be centered in communities that have been neglected, or bear the brunt of pollution. Another 250,000 jobs will come from plans to plug abandoned oil and gas wells, and reclaim coal, hardrock, and uranium mines.