Making American Green again: Joe Biden resets US environment policy
In a flurry of executive orders signed just hours after taking office on Wednesday, President Joe Biden has already committed the United States to rejoining the Paris climate accord, blocked an oil pipeline project, and ordered a halt to Arctic drilling. And that's just the start for the man who has promised to undo four years of environmental harm caused by his predecessor, Donald Trump.
Biden faces a tough task.
The new US leader will have to rebuild the credibility America lost in the eyes of the international community, by setting concrete goals for the reduction of carbon emissions on the path to net zero by 2050.
He'll also need to realise his $2 trillion climate plan, which would place green action at the heart of the economy and US recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, while ensuring a long-term shift that can't be rapidly undone under any future Republican president.
Biden has promised to convene the leaders of major economies for a climate summit within 100 days of his inauguration.
UN, France praise early action
Along with the executive orders signed on Wednesday, the Biden administration submitted a letter to the UN to formally trigger the 30-day process to reenter the Paris climate agreement.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the action and the prospect of "the leadership of United States in accelerating global efforts towards net zero" emissions, calling on the US leader to adopt an "ambitious" plan to fight global warming.
French President Emmanuel Macron lauded Biden's decision to return to the accord, telling him "welcome back" in a congratulatory message.
Biden also scrapped the Keystone XL pipeline connecting the Alberta oil sands to coastal refineries in Texas -- a move that threatens to strain ties with Canada.
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, has vowed to "work together to advance climate action and clean economic growth." The two leaders are due to speak Friday.
Contracts for renewable energy
Beyond Paris, the US federal government has numerous levers at its disposal, from imposing strict methane limits on new oil and gas infrastructure, to gearing federal contracts towards renewable energy and zero-emissions vehicles.
The Trump administration took an axe to a host of environmental regulations, and a fact sheet sent to reporters from the new administration vowed to "immediately review and take appropriate action" on all these measures.
Biden on Wednesday also placed a temporary moratorium on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, where Trump's administration had issued leases on its last full day in office.
Planet gets majority support
A survey conducted after the election and published last week by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication found a majority of voters from both Republican and Democrat backgrounds support policies to reduce carbon pollution and promote clean energy.
Fifty-three percent of voters said that global warming should be a high or very high priority for the president and Congress, while 66 percent said that developing sources of clean energy should be a high or very high priority.