The orders—which block construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, rejoin the Paris climate accords, and temporarily halt oil and gas leasing in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge—would directly reverse policies implemented by former President Donald Trump.
Biden’s move to kill the $8 billion pipeline, which would have carried hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude oil from western Canada to oil refineries in the Midwest and Gulf Coast, mirrors steps taken by former President Barack Obama in 2015.
Biden will take “critical first steps to address the climate crisis, create good union jobs, and advance environmental justice, while reversing the previous administration’s harmful policies,” his administration said.
Biden is expected to rejoin the Paris accords once sworn in, and frequently promised to do so throughout the 2020 campaign. The U.S. joined the global agreement in December 2015, but Trump repeatedly said that he planned to withdraw, which he officially did on Nov. 4, 2020.
The move was welcomed by U.N. officials, including Secretary-General António Guterres, who said in December that he looked “forward for a very active U.S. leadership in climate action from now on, as U.S. leadership is very essential.”
“The United States is the largest economy in the world. It is absolutely essential for our goals to be reached,” he added.
Biden also plans to halt oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and his executive order places a temporary hold on all oil and natural gas leases.
But Biden has made moving on from fossil fuels a central part of his climate agenda, and said that he would spend up to $2 trillion to combat climate change and develop an “emissions-free power sector by 2035.”
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