joe biden signing executive orders

Biden signs executive orders tightening regulations relaxed under Trump

Image credit: reuters

US President Joe Biden has signed a raft of executive orders (EO) on his first day in office designed to reverse many of the decisions made under the Trump administration.

One of Biden's most symbolically significant executive orders (EO) was to immediately recommit the US to the Paris Agreement, which the country had only just exited in November.

One of Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign promises had been to leave the global accord, designed to tackle climate change. Joe Biden campaigned on the very opposite; namely, that the country would re-join on day one of his administration – a pledge he has now fulfilled.

Prior to taking office, members of Biden's incoming administration said they planned to take stronger climate action than that which is proposed in the Paris Agreement as a way to make up for “lost time” over the last four years.

In a move concomitant with this pledge, Biden also signed an EO revoking a vital permit for TC Energy’s Keystone XL oil pipeline project from Canada. 

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “disappointed” by the cancellation of the $8bn project to pump oil sands crude from Alberta, Canada to Nebraska in the US, but he welcomed the US decision to re-join the Paris Agreement, adding: “I look forward to working with President Biden to reduce pollution.”

Keystone XL was meant to carry 830,000 barrels per day to the United States, but ran into fierce domestic opposition due to its heavy environmental burden. The Association of Oil Pipe Lines said it “lamented” the decision to cancel the project, adding that this would kill around 10,000 jobs and take “$2.2bn in payroll out of workers pockets”.

As well as the cancellation of Keystone, Biden issued a moratorium on oil and gas leasing activities in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, an area that Trump’s administration had recently opened to development.

Biden’s orders also require government agencies to consider revising vehicle fuel efficiency standards and methane emissions curbs and to study the possibility of re-expanding the boundaries of wilderness national monuments which the Trump administration had reduced in size.

In March 2020, Republican President Trump finalised a rollback of US Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards to require 1.5 per cent annual increases in efficiency through 2026, well below the 5 per cent yearly boosts that had been mandated under his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama.

Outside of EOs designed to tackle environmental issues, Biden ordered a halt to the construction of Trump’s US-Mexico border wall; ended the ban on travel from some Muslim-majority countries, and signed a mask mandate which requires face masks to be worn inside buildings and on land controlled by the federal government as one measure to help tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.

The EU has hailed Biden’s inauguration as a “new dawn” for Europe and the US, adding that American tech firms should face fiercer regulation to stymie the spread of hate speech online.

The EU’s chief executive and chairman told the European Parliament that shaping new global digital regulation together was paramount.

“This new dawn in America is the moment we’ve been waiting for,” said Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission President. She also cautioned: “This sense of relief should not lead us to making any illusions. Trump may be consigned to history in a few hours, but his followers remain.”

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