Biden Administration prioritises climate on first day

21 January 2021

Following his inauguration yesterday, US President Joseph Biden has formally signed an executive order to re-enter the Paris Climate Change Agreement and directed US departments and federal agencies to "immediately commence work to confront the climate crisis". The USA's re-entry will come into force in 30 days.

President Biden pictured at yesterday's inauguration (Image: SrA Kevin Tanenbaum/US DoD - appearance of image does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement)

"I, Joseph R Biden Jr, President of the United States of America, having seen and considered the Paris Agreement, done at Paris on 12 December 2015, do hereby accept the said Agreement and every article and clause thereof on behalf of the United States of America," the Presidential order read.

Earlier in the day, Biden in his inaugural address had referred to climate change as one of the challenges currently facing the USA and the world. "This is a time of testing," he said. "We face an attack on democracy and on truth. A raging virus. Growing inequity. The sting of systemic racism. A climate in crisis. America's role in the world.

"Any one of these would be enough to challenge us in profound ways. But the fact is we face them all at once, presenting this nation with the gravest of responsibilities.

"Now we must step up. All of us."

The USA's notice of re-entry into the Agreement has been deposited with the United Nations and will enter into force on 19 February. UN Secretary-General António Guterres today welcomed Biden's action. "Following last year's Climate Ambition Summit, countries producing half of global carbon pollution had committed to carbon neutrality. Today's commitment by President Biden brings that figure to two-thirds. But there is a very long way to go. The climate crisis continues to worsen and time is running out to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius and build more climate-resilient societies that help to protect the most vulnerable," he said.

"We look forward to the leadership of the United States in accelerating global efforts towards net zero, including by bringing forward a new nationally determined contribution (NDC) with ambitious 2030 targets and climate finance in advance of COP26 in Glasgow later this year."

The Paris Agreement aims to limit global warming to well below 2, and preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels. NDCs are national climate action plans under the agreement. The agreement entered into force in November 2016, but then-US President Donald Trump in 2017 announced his decision to withdraw from it and this was formally completed in November 2020. The same month, then-President-Elect Biden published his priorities on climate change, with ambitions to achieve a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035, and signalled the incoming Administration's support for existing low carbon sources, including nuclear energy and for developing advanced nuclear technology.

Re-entry into the Paris Agreement was one of 15 executive actions taken by the President during his first day in office. These included an Executive Order on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis, which directs all executive departments and agencies to "immediately commence work to confront the climate crisis".

Biden in November announced his intention to appoint Jennifer Granholm as Secretary of Energy. Yesterday, the new Administration named David Huizenga as acting leader of the Department of Energy until permanent leadership can be confirmed by the US Senate.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News