Biden Will Rejoin Paris Accord and Halt Arctic Drilling on First Day in Office

The new president plans to sign “a historic number of actions” on day one of his presidency, including canceling the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.
January 20, 2021, 4:00pm
Image: Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images​
Image: Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images

Joe Biden is taking immediate action on climate when he assumes office on Wednesday, rolling back some of the Trump administration’s most egregious policies.

The U.S. will rejoin the Paris Climate Accord, halt oil and natural gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and will revoke the presidential permit granted to the Keystone XL pipeline on his first day as president, according to the Biden-Harris transition website.

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These are just the first steps of Biden’s broader plan to confront climate change, and are part of “a historic number of actions” that the incoming president aims to complete on day one, which include “a combination of executive orders, memoranda, directives, and letters.”

“The president-elect will sign the instrument to rejoin the Paris Agreement,” according to a fact sheet on the transition team’s website. “The instrument will be deposited with the United Nations today, and the United States will officially become a Party again 30 days later. The United States will be back in position to exercise global leadership in advancing the objectives of the Agreement.”

President-elect Biden will also direct the Department of Interior to reverse President Trump’s late-stage push to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to more oil and gas extraction, by placing a temporary moratorium on fossil fuel extraction in this vast designated wilderness area. 

Encompassing nearly 20 million acres across Alaska, the refuge was established in 1960 to conserve fish and wildlife populations, fulfill treaty obligations to Indigenous peoples of the Arctic, and ensure water quality and quantity in the region, according to its website.

The Trump administration’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 added a new purpose for the refuge: “to provide for an oil and gas program on the Coastal Plain.” In the same year, President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accord, an international agreement intended to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Biden also plans to review the boundaries and conditions of the Grand Staircase-Escalante, Bears Ears, Northeast Canyons, and Seamounts Marine National Monuments in response to efforts by Trump to open portions of these lands to more commercial activity.