U.S. President-elect Joe Biden discusses the importance of protecting the Affordable Care Act (ACA) while speaking to reporters about his health plan during a news conference on Nov. 10, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware, United States.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
Elected President Joe Biden has set a bold agenda to tackle global climate change – from pledging to rejoin the Paris Agreement to spending more than $ 2 trillion on shifting the country from fossil fuels to clean energy and green jobs.
But its climate legislation may face huge constraints if the Democrats don’t take control of the U.S. Senate. In Georgia, two runoff races of the Senate on January 5th will decide which party controls the Senate.
Many of Biden’s climate policies are blocked by Senate Republicans, who normally speak out against climate legislation. If there was a divided Congress, Biden would have to rely on executive power to implement climate action – a move similar to the previous president Barack Obama – and possibly more humble deals to advance his agenda.
That contradicts the president Donald Trumpwho denied the science of climate change and during his four year tenure dismantled more than 70 important environmental regulations, with almost 30 others in progress.
Biden’s massive $ 2 trillion investment plan to curb climate change and create jobs will only stand a chance, according to legal experts, if Democrats win the Senate. In addition, it will be particularly difficult to replace the president’s regulatory agenda with new climate change initiatives without a democratically controlled Senate passing such laws. Additionally, a conservative majority in the Supreme Court could stand up to the judicial challenges.
“When Democrats control the Senate, the first thing you will see Biden take action against the stimulus package … much of it would be focused on clean energy,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of Yale’s program on climate change communications. “There’s a lot that Biden can do right now about executive action, but it depends on Senate scrutiny to really get the ball moving.”
Still, Biden was able to undo many of Trump’s environmental setbacks through executive powers with a Republican-controlled Senate.
Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency has weakened Obama-era regulations on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and methane leaks from oil and gas fields, amongst other things. The interior department has Limited protection for wildlife Open protected land to oil and gas projects.
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Biden’s team is already planning to introduce restrictions on oil and gas drilling on public properties. block certain polluting pipelines across the country; and cancel much of Trump’s executive orders on energy.
“Many of Trump’s deregulation efforts are legally shaky,” said Michael Burger, director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University. “All of Trump’s deregulation efforts can be reversed and redirected. It will take time, but there is no question that it can and will be done.”
Burger said he had a “wait and see” stance on the type of climate legislation Biden could pass if the GOP sticks to the Senate, but stressed that “none of the Trump administration’s environmental policies are likely to last very long.”
Biden has a number of climate change implementing regulations that the country is likely to see in the early months of his tenure.
The president-elect has announced that in his first term he will sign an executive order to preserve 30% of America’s land and water by 2030 and protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil drilling.
Biden’s plans include executive orders that require agencies to develop new methane restrictions on oil and gas wells. Strengthening fuel consumption standards; Increasing the efficiency of US government buildings; and increasing the efficiency standards for equipment and buildings.
The Biden government would also sign an order requiring public companies to disclose their climate risks and CO2 emissions from their operations.
“We see one fundamental change in public engagement and political engagement with [climate change]”Said Leiserowitz.” Biden explicitly addressed climate change. Climate change was evident in all three debates. That is just a fundamentally different political reality today. “
In a move not dependent on the Senate, Biden has also promised to resume the 2015 Paris Agreement, the landmark pact among nearly 200 nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to avoid the worst effects of global warming. Re-entry only requires a letter to the United Nations and 30 days to take effect.
The President-elect also plans to organize a “Climate world summit“To help the leaders of the major carbon-emitting nations take action against climate change. The US is the second largest source of global carbon dioxide emissions after China.