2021 has already been a year like no other, and we are still only in January. Starting the year stuck inside, here in Ireland, many people watched the inauguration of the new American president last week. Joe Biden, aged 78, was sworn in on the 20th January 2021, alongside Kamala Harris – the first woman and first black, Asian-American woman to become the Vice President of the United States.
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The diverse, democratic Biden-Harris team swept in with a new gust of hope for people internationally, ready to tackle huge current issues like the COVID-19 pandemic and the rising climate in America.
The magnitude of these problems continues to increase, especially the devastating effects of climate change. 2020 was the hottest year ever recorded, and scientists have deemed 2021 a crucial year that could be the turning point from potential global disaster.
The environmental policy promoted in the United States, as a global superpower, has tremendous effects on global climate, and many policies to protect our damaged planet were scrapped under the Trump administration. One such abandoned policy was the 2015 Paris Agreement, which Donald Trump, during his final weeks in office, officially withdrew America from in November 2020.
Here are some plans the Biden-Harris team have for the next 4 years, to try and protect our planet.
The Paris Agreement
The Paris Agreement is an international treaty that legally binds countries to limit their greenhouse gas emissions, in an attempt to keep global temperatures from rising above 2 degree celsius. The agreement asks countries to formulate long-term strategies to ensure low greenhouse gas emissions. On his first day in office Biden rejoined the US to this agreement, meaning the U.S. once again aims to curb emissions in line with international efforts and standards.
The Social Benefits of Reducing Emissions
On the 20th of January, Biden set out an executive request that agencies must consider the long term benefits to society if climate pollution is reduced. The request asked agencies, such as those in the agricultural sector, to consider how cutting greenhouse gas emissions will affect the risk of floods, and protect our valuable ecosystems, when planning the cost-benefit ratio of their next actions.
While it may seem cheaper now to do things using fossil fuels, the long term “social cost of carbon”, “social cost of methane”, and socio-economic impact on humans, due to environmental damage, could be detrimental.
New Vehicle Pollution Standards
It appears the president-elect hopes to follow the lead of the California Air Resources Board, who reached a deal with global automakers, including BMW, Ford, Honda, Volvo and Voltzwaggen, in 2019, in their mission to cut emissions. This board and these big vehicle companies agreed passenger vehicles must be more fuel efficient – between now and 2026 these vehicles must reach 51 miles per gallon of fuel, instead of the previous and current 38 miles per gallon.
In an executive order laid out on his inauguration day, Biden initiated a review of the fuel economy standards proposed by the Trump administration. The Biden-Harris team stated the climate crisis as a priority, aiming to instate environmentally-protective regulatory standards surrounding the CO2 emissions and fuel-efficiency of vehicles and industry in the U.S.
Hopefully the introduction and popularity of more eco-friendly vehicles, will vastly reduce the U.S.’s carbon footprint and increase the number of jobs for people in this sector.
The Biden-Harris administration also plans to encourage the development of more energy efficient homes and cut the U.S.‘s power sector greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2035 and the entire country to net zero by 2050.
These ambitious plans were summed up in the hopeful executive order given by Biden last week, “The world must be put on a sustainable climate pathway to protect Americans and the domestic economy from harmful climate impacts, and to create well-paying union jobs as part of the climate solution.”
Hopefully, the planet will feel relief due to this team’s plans during the next 4 years.