Biden, in a Burst of Climate Orders, Rejoins the Paris Agreement – January 20, 2021

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden

The president also canceled the Keystone XL pipeline and ordered federal agencies to begin the process of reinstating environmental regulations reversed under the Trump administration.

President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Wednesday recommitted the United States to the Paris climate agreement, the international accord designed to avert catastrophic global warming, and ordered federal agencies to start reviewing and reinstating more than 100 environmental regulations that were weakened or rolled back by former President Donald J. Trump.

The moves represent a first step in healing one of the deepest rifts between the United States and the rest of the world after Mr. Trump defiantly rejected the Paris pact and seemed to relish his administration’s push to weaken or undo major domestic climate policies.

Mr. Biden has elevated tackling the climate crisis among his highest priorities. In addition to curbing global warming, he has vowed that ending the coronavirus pandemic, restoring the economy and addressing racial injustice will be the central causes of his administration.

“We’re going to combat climate change in a way we have not before,” Mr. Biden said in the Oval Office on Wednesday evening, just before signing the executive orders. Even so, he cautioned: “They are just executive actions. They are 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 moves as a powerful signal that the United States, the largest contributor to global warming in history, intends to restart its efforts to lower pollution levels and to restore the international order upended 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 nations have vowed to reduce planet warming emissions to avert the most disastrous consequences of climate change. A letter to the United Nations signed by Mr. Biden on Wednesday formally starts the 30-day process of bringing the United States back into the accord.

But analysts cautioned that Mr. Biden’s actions on day one must be quickly followed by a series of aggressive domestic climate policies to drastically lower the country’s emissions of planet-warming pollution from tailpipes, smokestacks and oil and gas wells.

Also on Wednesday, Mr. Biden rescinded the construction permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would have transported carbon-heavy oil from the Canadian oil sands to the Gulf Coast. Earlier in the day, TC Energy, a Canadian company, said that it was suspending work on the line.

But the lengthy legal process of undoing most of Mr. Trump’s environmental rollbacks and replacing them with new regulations could take many years and is likely to be strewn with political land mines if Republicans or business groups fight against them.

Even before Mr. Biden was inaugurated on Wednesday, some Republicans lashed out against his new policy direction.

“President-elect Biden’s policies from day one hurt American workers and our economy,” Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia said in a statement.

In another early indication of the headwinds Mr. Biden could face in Congress, Senator Steve Daines, a Montana Republican, said he intended to introduce a resolution requiring the president to seek the advice and consent of the Senate for the Paris Agreement, and a separate bill that would congressionally authorize the Keystone pipeline over Mr. Biden’s objections.

The nation’s largest business lobby, the United States Chamber of Commerce, which opposed much of former President Barack Obama’s environmental agenda, signaled its support for rejoining the Paris accord, but also its opposition to killing the Keystone project.

“It is critical that the United States restore 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 harm consumers and put thousands of Americans in the building trades out of work.”

Mr. Biden has set an ambitious target 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 reach those goals absent new legislation from Congress — a difficult prospect, given the Democrats’ razor-thin one-vote majority in the Senate.