Biden to Rejoin Paris Agreement on Inauguration Day, Among 17 Executive Actions

Sophie Hirsh - Author

Jan. 20 2021, Published 10:10 a.m. ET

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President-elect Joe Biden isn’t wasting any time. With the inauguration just hours away, Biden’s team has confirmed that Biden will issue 17 executive actions his first day in office — that’s today, Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 2021. And two of these actions are reversals of Trump administration actions related to the environment: Biden will rejoin the Paris Agreement and cancel the Keystone XL pipeline.

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Jen Psaki, who will serve as Biden’s White House press secretary, confirmed the news to reporters on Tuesday night, Jan. 19, as reported by CBS News. After taking presidential office around 12 p.m. on Jan. 20, Biden will sign 17 executive actions, 15 of which are executive orders — and yes, some of these will reverse decisions made by Trump. 

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Biden will rejoin the Paris Agreement.

While campaigning for president, Biden made something very clear: that he intended to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord, aka the Paris Agreement, on his first day in office. 

“Today, the Trump Administration officially left the Paris Climate Agreement. And in exactly 77 days, a Biden Administration will rejoin it,” Biden tweeted on Nov. 4, the day that Trump formally withdrew the U.S. from the international climate agreement.

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On Jan. 19, Psaki confirmed that Biden filing the paperwork to rejoin the Paris Agreement will be one of 17 executive actions he takes on Inauguration Day. And fortunately, making the U.S. an official party of the Paris Agreement once again shouldn’t take too long

As Michael Burger of Columbia University’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law explained to InsideClimate News last year, to rejoin the accord, Biden needs to write a letter to the UN Secretary General along with a new pledge for national emissions reduction; just 30 days after Biden does this, we’re back in.

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Biden will cancel the Keystone XL pipeline permit.

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On Monday, Jan. 18, outlets including The Washington Post reported — via anonymous sources — that Biden plans to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline permit soon upon taking office. 

Gina McCarthy, whom Biden appointed as White House Climate Coordinator, confirmed the news to reporters late Tuesday night, as per E&E News. President Obama rejected the pipeline back in 2015 due to environmental and public health hazards, but Trump reversed that ruling during his first week as president. Now, four years later, construction has recently begun on the Keystone XL pipeline — but Biden plans to shut that down on Day One.

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Not only will the Biden administration put an end to the Keystone XL pipeline, but McCarthy also stated that she is supervising agency reviews — and potential reversals — of more than 100 environmental rules set by the Trump administration, CNN reported. According to a running list by The New York Times, the Trump administration made a total of 104 environmental rollbacks over the last four years, 84 of which have been completed.

For example, in addition to removing the U.S. from the Paris Agreement and reinstating construction on the Keystone XL pipeline, the Trump administration gutted the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), gave power plants the right to dump toxic wastewater into natural waters, green-lit oil drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, rolled back a law that prevented fossil fuel plants from releasing toxic metals, and so much more.

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