In Brief

Biden cancels the Keystone XL pipeline and rejoins the Paris agreement

Washington D.C.

21 January 2021

President Joe Biden has begun his term in office with a series of executive orders that recommit the United States to the Paris climate agreement, rescind the construction permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline, and order federal agencies to review or reinstate a series of 100 environmental regulations weakened or rolled back by his predecessor.

“We’re going to combat climate change in a way we have not before,” Biden said in the Oval Office on Wednesday evening. “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.”

Under the Trump administration, the United States had rejected the Paris agreement and approved the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, an infrastructure project to transport oil from the Canadian oil sands to the Gulf Coast.

Biden signed a letter to the United Nations that formally begins the 30-day process of bringing the United States back into the Paris accord. Biden has set a target for thecountry to eliminate carbon dioxide emissions from its electric power sector by 2035, and from the entire economy by 2050.

If the United States is to meet this target, Biden will need to pass domestic climate policies that can drastically lower the country’s emissions – a task that could face fierce opposition from business groups and Republican politicians, who have argued that the measures would be deleterious to US economic interests.

Nevertheless, Biden has already directed federal agencies to review all decisions made by the Trump administration “that were harmful to public health, damaging to the environment, unsupported by the best available science, or otherwise not in the national interest.”

During his term of office, Trump unwound a series of regulations that restricted greenhouse emissions from vehicles and methane leaks from oil and gas wells. The administration also replaced energy efficiency standards for appliances and buildings.