Picture: 123RF/INK DROP
Picture: 123RF/INK DROP

On November 4, the day after the presidential election, the US officially withdrew from the Paris Agreement on climate change. As vote counting tilted towards a Joe Biden victory, the country’s departure from the climate accord became one of the final acts of Donald Trump’s deleterious presidency.

Rejoining the Paris deal will be among Biden’s first moves as president — a declarative break with the Trump era. It will be a symbolic start for a president who has promised action on the environment. Biden has pledged $2-trillion to wean the country off climate-heating fuels. In mid-December, when he introduced his environmental team, he called climate change “the existential threat of our time”.

As 2021 begins the US is once more an ally of Canada, the EU and other like-minded countries in the fight against global warming. While this is a welcome reversal from the past four years, it is not all good news. The gap between Biden’s ambition and reality may be considerable. Passing legislation, on climate change and other issues, will be a challenge despite Democratic control of the House of Representatives.

Biden can work more freely with executive orders and regulation. It was an approach used by Barack Obama when he faced Republican opposition in Congress, and one used by Trump as he sought to undo Obama’s environmental legacy. Trump took an axe to more than 100 climate policies. Among them was fuel-efficiency standards, which Obama tightened and Trump loosened. Biden will once more tighten them, and that is good news for Canada, because it fits in this country’s climate plan and ends the risk of a bifurcated continental car market.

Biden also plans to order public companies to provide a clear accounting of what the risks posed by climate change mean for their businesses. That may put the US ahead of Canada. During the Trump era Canadians were able to wallow in a sense of climate superiority. Biden’s actions may disturb that national self-satisfaction.

The Trudeau Liberals’ proposed hike to the carbon tax is a big deal, but some of Biden’s plans, such as building a green electrical grid, mandating zero-emission vehicles and slashing methane emissions, may top Canada. /Toronto, January 4

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