Foresight: US climate policy under President Joe Biden

Photo: The White House in WashingtonThe US administration under President Joe Biden will be much more outward facing and stand for a return to multilateralism says Charles Martin-Shields of the German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE). The First appointments reflects this, such as the appointment of the former ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, to head of USAID.

In climate policy, too, it can be assumed that Biden will correct the American course under Trump. For example, Biden early announced his plan to return to the responsibilities and commitments of the Paris Climate Agreement. According to Martin-Shields, several appointments are further strong signals to national and international climate policy. For example the appointment of John Kerry, long-time senator and former Secretary of State, to Climate Envoy. Furthermore, Climate Envoy Kerry is given a seat on the National Security Council. Thus, a deserving and committed representative of climate protection will be present when central issues of national security and foreign policy are negotiated. Martin-Shields believes that Kerry has the political capital to coordinate effectively with different US cabinet-level agencies on issues of climate change.


Have a look at this short social video or read more on his perception.


Well-known climate representatives appointed

Biden also filled key domestic policy positions with personalities known in climate policy. For example, Brian Deese will take over the lead of the White House Economic Council. Deese represented the White House during the Paris Climate Agreement negotiations under Obama in 2015.

Michael Regan will take over as head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which rolled-back numerous environmental rules under Trump. Regan knows EPA from his work during the administration of Bill Clinton. At the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, he established the first environmental-justice advisory board.

Signs outwards and inwards

Besides the signalling power of appointments and the announced return to the Paris Climate Agreement, there are also concrete actions by the Biden administration that give hope. For example, on its first day President Biden stopped the approval of the construction of Keystone XL, a pipeline that was to transport oil from Canada’s tar sand fields to the USA. He did so despite the tension the decision is likely to cause with the important neighbouring country Canada.

Charles Martin-Shields expects to see actual coordination across the State Department, USAID and EPA, with possibility for legislative support from Democratic House and Senate. So changes and policies could be put into law, making them harder to change on short notice by later presidents.

On 21 January 2021, Charles Martin-Shields also shared his assessments of the expected climate policy under US President Joe Biden with the Bonn Climate Change Group.

The Bonn Climate Change Group is an open network of organisations and institutions based in Bonn, mostly working in the fields of environmental change and development. It has been jointly initiated by the NDC-Partnership and the City of Bonn in 2019 to foster dialogue on climate change and sustainable development, and to open a space for mutual support towards ambitious climate action. DIE has been represented in the network from the early beginning, especially with by the Klimalog project. The network meets three to five times a year under Chatham House Rule, meetings are held in English and hosted in turns.

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