Washington The United States is once again part of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The new President Joe Biden decreed the re-entry on Wednesday by executive order. To officially rejoin the agreement will take 30 days.
UN Secretary General António Guterres was delighted: “I welcome the steps taken by President Biden to re-enter the Paris Agreement on Climate Change,” he said. In doing so, the United States joined the growing coalition of governments, cities, states, companies and people who were taking ambitious measures to deal with the climate crisis.
The order to re-join the pact was one of Biden’s first acts on his first day at the White House. The move had been expected. Biden’s predecessor, ex-President Donald Trump, had the USA withdraw from the climate protection agreement, which is supposed to reduce global emissions.
Biden also relied on executive orders in the areas of migration and the corona pandemic to reverse Trump’s policy. As the first of more than a dozen decrees, Biden signed the one on the climate agreement and one that mandates the wearing of masks in federal buildings. “There is no better time to start than today,” he said. The obligation to wear mouth and nose protection extends to all areas in which the federal government has jurisdiction. Examples include federal government buildings, airplanes and trains, and buses in traffic between states. All employees of the federal government are also obliged to do so.
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Dozens of more actions are expected in the ten days following the inauguration. Biden plans to review all Trump decrees and regulations that could harm the environment or negatively affect health in the coming days.
The first measures on Wednesday also included the completion of the construction of the wall on the border with Mexico, the lifting of the building permit for the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada, an end to blanket entry bans for citizens of several Muslim states and the return to the World Health Organization, the the Trump administration had turned its back on the corona pandemic.
100 days of wearing a mask
In the corona pandemic, in addition to the mask requirement, Biden also ordered safety distances in all federal buildings, in the area of federal properties and among its employees and contractual partners. As previously announced, he wants to swear US citizens to wear masks for 100 days. At the same time, he wants to push the country’s vaccination campaign so far that 100 million vaccine doses are to be administered in the first 100 days of his term in office.
The return to the World Health Organization (WHO) is not just a signal. As a representative of a US delegation, top virologist Anthony Fauci is expected to speak to the WHO on Thursday.
After re-entering the climate pact, Biden also has a moratorium on plans to grant prospecting rights for oil and gas deposits in an arctic nature reserve in the USA. With a view to moving away from entry bans from Muslim countries, the new government has announced that it will improve security screening, including by improving agreements with other governments.
On the US-Mexico border, Biden ends the national emergency declared by Trump in 2018, with which Trump diverted billions of dollars from the Department of Defense for the construction of the wall, which Trump had claimed Mexico was paying for, with immediate effect. Biden also wants to secure a program to protect young migrants that his predecessor wanted to abolish.
However, the topic of Iran is left out of the President’s first measures: Biden will not announce a re-entry into the international nuclear agreement, which is supposed to prevent Iran from using nuclear weapons. The previous government unilaterally terminated the 2015 agreement.
First criticism of enactments
In the Senate there was immediate resistance to a return of the USA to the Paris climate agreement. A group of Republican senators tabled a resolution requiring Biden to obtain the approval of two-thirds of the Congress Chamber, as with all international treaties. Biden’s Democrats hold half of the seats there. President Barack Obama did not submit the Paris Agreement to the Senate at the time. He argued that it was part of an already ratified 1992 UN agreement.
Canada’s US Ambassador Kirsten Hillman told CTV that her country was “very disappointed” with the pipeline decision. Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy was indignant about the energy moratorium. The new president “seems to be delivering on his promise to turn Alaska into a large national park,” he said.
More: All current developments on Biden’s inauguration in the live blog.