Biden announces the return to the global climate agreement, new brakes on the US oil industry

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – US President Joe Biden announced on Wednesday America’s return to the international Paris agreement to combat climate change, the centerpiece of a series of first-day executive orders aimed at restoring state leadership. United in the fight against global warming.

The announcements also included a general order to review all actions by former President Donald Trump that weakened protections against climate change, the revocation of a vital permit for TC Energy’s Keystone XL pipeline project. from Canada, and a moratorium on oil and gas leasing activities in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge that the Trump administration had recently opened for development.

Orders from the new sworn president will mark the start of a major policy reversal in the world’s second-largest greenhouse gas emitter behind China, after the Trump administration seduced climate science and overturned regulation. environmental to maximize the development of fossil fuels.

Biden vowed to put the US on the path to net zero emissions by 2050 to address the steep and rapid global cuts scientists say are needed to avoid the most devastating impacts of global warming by using the brakes on fossil fuels. and massive investments in clean energy.

The path will not be easy, however, with political divisions in the United States, opposition from fossil fuel companies and cautious international partners concerned about US policy changes standing in the way.

“We’ve come very hard off the track in the past four years with a climate denier in the Oval Office,” said John Podesta, an adviser to former President Barack Obama who helped create the 2015 Paris Agreement. ‘international arena with a credibility deficit “.

Biden’s orders also require government agencies to consider revising vehicle fuel efficiency standards and methane emission limits, and to study the possibility of re-expanding the boundaries of national wildlife monuments that had been reduced. in size from the Trump administration.

While environmental advocates were enthusiastic about the orders, industry groups and conservatives criticized them.

Republican Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy mocked Biden’s decision to stop oil and gas work at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, saying the new president “appears to be delivering on his promise to turn Alaska into a big one. National Park”.

The American Petroleum Institute, the nation’s leading oil and gas industry lobbying group, meanwhile, said it believed the blockade of the Keystone XL pipeline was a “step backwards.”

“This wrong move will hinder America’s economic recovery, undermine North America’s energy security, and strain relations with one of America’s greatest allies,” said API President Mike Sommers.

HARD PART FORWARD

Global counterparts and climate advocates welcomed Washington’s return to climate change cooperation, but expressed some skepticism about its resilience and its ability to overcome domestic political turmoil.

Trump withdrew the United States from the 2015 Paris Agreement late last year, arguing it was too expensive for the US economy.

“The United States continues to be the only country that has withdrawn from the Paris Agreement, making it, frankly, the pariah of this multilateral agreement, “former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres told Reuters.

Biden can regain US credibility by “doing the housework” of an ambitious home climate action.

Brian Deese, Biden director of the National Economic Council, told Reuters that the US hopes to encourage other large emitters to “push their ambitions as well, even if we need to demonstrate our ability to get back on stage and show leadership.”

Pete Betts, a colleague at the London-based Chatham House think tank who led climate negotiations for the European Union when the Paris agreement was reached, said the US will have to deliver on its promises even with financial commitments.

The United States under Obama has pledged to provide $ 3 billion to the Green Climate Fund to help vulnerable countries fight climate change. So far it has delivered only $ 1 billion.

“The United States will have to put money on the table and encourage others to do the same,” he said.

Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; additional reportage by Yew Lun Tian in Beijing, David Stanway in Shanghai, Yereth Rosen in Achorage and Kate Abnett in Brussels; edited by Richard Valdmanis and Lisa Shumaker