Walking the talk: Newly elected US President Joe Biden is letting the world know he means business when it comes to combating climate change | Photo: AP

Biden puts climate back on top of US agenda

Newly elected US President Joe Biden didn’t waste any time to put climate back on top of the country’s priority list. Biden yesterday delivered remarks on his plan to accelerate climate action “with a greater sense of urgency.”

Executive actions announced yesterday will elevate climate change as a national security priority, extend protections to about 30% of all federal land and water, and suspend all new natural gas and oil leases given on federal resources.

A week earlier, on the first day of his presidency, Biden rolled back more than 100 environment regulations formulated by the Trump administration. He also began the process to get the US back into the Paris agreement. It will take 30 days to formalise the re-entry. 

Among the key decisions that Biden revoked was Trump’s approval for the Keystone XL pipeline, which aimed to transport crude oil from Canada. Biden also ordered a review of the previous administration’s decision to downsize national monuments – Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears – which are considered sacred to Native Americans. The downsizing was to tap the lands’ potential for coal mining and oil drilling. More executive orders to combat climate change are in the offing. Meanwhile, the country’s new secretary of state, Anthony Blinken, said there was ‘very strong potential’ for India and the US to work together against climate change.     

Bank of France vows to cut coal from its portfolio

France’s central bank is looking to cut coal from its portfolio. The Bank of France stated its intentions to withdraw from investments in companies in which coal accounts for more than 2% of the total turnover this year. It aims to phase out the greenhouse gas by 2040. These rules, however, will only apply to the bank’s portfolio of around $30 billion and not to its monetary policy operations. The bank also stated its intentions to move away from its investments in non-conventional hydrocarbon activities such as shale gas, oil sands and Arctic and deepwater explorations. 

EU demands global phase out of coal, fossil fuel subsidies

The EU, under its European Green Deal policy, called for a global phase out of coal and fossil fuel subsidies this past fortnight. Europe’s foreign ministers also called for an end to all financing of new coal infrastructure in third-world countries. The deal also focused on scaling up climate finance, especially in regions such as Africa. While Europe is still largely dependent on coal, the deal vows to reach net zero emissions by 2050. 

US court strikes down Trump decision to ease restrictions on coal plants

In a win for environmentalists, a federal court in the US voided a plan put forth by the Trump administration to ease restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from coal plants. This will give the current Biden administration a clear hand to impose further restrictions on the power plants. Called the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, the order would have pushed for greater efficiency in coal plants and therefore have them run for longer under the Clean Air Act, which would in turn prop up demand for coal. The rule was passed by Donald Trump’s EPA, under what the court concluded was a “tortured” interpretation of the Clean Air Act, with emphasis on “words that are not there”. 

Environmentalists lose legal bid to stop UK from building Europe’s biggest gas power plant

In the UK, environmentalists lost their legal appeal challenging the UK government’s approval for a new gas-fired power plant. The project was approved despite climate change objections raised by the planning authority, which led to the appeal filed by environmental charity ClientEarth. The plant will be the biggest gas power station in Europe and is expected to account for 75% of the country’s power sector emissions. Two years ago, the Planning Inspectorate had recommended that ministers don’t approve the project because it would “undermine” the government’s commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

About The Author