The global environmental movement hailed the election of Joe Biden as a boost for the entire planet, as the incoming US President's team confirmed climate action as an immediate priority and said he will press world leaders to raise their game on green goals.
Biden has pledged to rejoin the Paris Agreement on climate – which the US has only just left at the behest of incumbent Donald Trump – along with a $2 trillion domestic plan that includes power decarbonisation by 2035 and net zero by 2050.
Climate was named among four priorities on a website set up by the transition team established by the President-elect and his running partner Kamala Harris.
The transition team said Biden “will not only recommit the United States to the Paris Agreement on climate change – he will go much further than that. He is working to lead an effort to get every major country to ramp up the ambition of their domestic climate targets”.
“President-elect Biden is leading the world to address the climate emergency and leading through the power of example. Biden knows how to stand with America’s allies, stand up to adversaries, and level with any world leader about what must be done.”
Biden made “good-paying jobs” in sectors such as wind power a cornerstone of his election campaign, in the face of open derision from Trump.
The transition website reiterated the new administration’s plan to “move ambitiously to generate clean, American-made electricity to achieve a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035. This will enable us to meet the existential threat of climate change while creating millions of jobs with a choice to join a union”.
The impending return of the US to the climate fold was greeted with relief by high-profile commentators such as Laurence Tubiana, CEO of the European Climate Foundation and one of the architects of the 2016 Paris deal.
“Enfin! After holding our breath we can unlock all our energy to make 2021 the winning year for climate and sustainable development,” Tubiana said, adding to early jubilation from the US renewable energy sector after the result was confirmed on Saturday.
“The Biden-Harris Administration has an historic opportunity to enact one of the world's largest green stimulus efforts, to accelerate the US economy toward sustained emissions reductions while rebuilding and creating a fairer society.”
With the strength of Biden’s hand in the US Congress still unclear, commentators have pointed to the potential obstacles facing Biden in enacting his domestic clean-energy agenda in the face of opposition from adherents of Trump’s climate-sceptical position.
But the new President is certain to try to put the US back in an international mainstream that since Trump has been in office has seen ambitious net-zero targets announced by the EU, China, UK, Japan and South Korea, leaving America increasingly an outlier among major world economies.
Biden before the election was said to be considering the appointment of a ‘climate czar’, with veteran US politician John Kerry said to be in the running for the role.
The election of a climate-conscious president has already shown signs of driving the issue higher up the international geopolitical agenda.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson namechecked climate first when he said his government was looking forward to “working closely on shared priorities” with the new President.
With the UK increasingly isolated on Brexit and its leaders seen as friends of Trump, commentators said Britain – which will host the crucial COP 26 climate summit in 2021 – will seize on bold environmental policies as a way to find common ground with Biden.