• Democratic reforms will determine how successful the US administration can be on climate

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Democratic reforms will determine how successful the US administration can be on climate

Jan 21 2021

President Joe Biden took office yesterday. The new US president has already shown he is serious about climate. But roadblocks in Congress – and emerging threats to democracy – mean the way forward will not be easy. Stockholm Environment Institute Senior Scientist Pete Erickson, director of the SEI US Climate Policy Program, puts forward four climate policy developments to keep an eye on in 2021.

In short:

Economic recovery investment to help build out a low-carbon economy
Economic recovery efforts can push hard on building out the low-carbon economy. US energy and transportation infrastructure is out of date, and the country has not yet made a big leap into low-carbon manufacturing. All of this low-carbon investment could mean jobs.

Greater international engagement, including on a transition away from fossil fuels
It is all but assured that the country will rejoin the Paris Agreement, with Biden planning to sign an executive order on day one to re-enter the agreement. The bigger question is: what kind of leadership role will the US take? Incoming Vice President Kamala Harris could also make good on her proposal to seek an international agreement to manage the decline of fossil fuel production.

Strengthened standards, regulatory support, and executive action
Serious action in the U.S. will have to happen without the help of Congress. This is where immediate executive action can help, coupled with actions from federal agencies and states. Biden himself can issue executive orders to slow or reverse some of Trump’s damage. 

Democratic reform: a necessity for durable, positive policy change
One need look no further than the Republican-incited violence at the US Capitol, seeking to overturn an election, to see that democracy in the US is under threat. If the US is going to be able to advance policies, including climate policies, that benefit the vast majority of people, it will probably have to buckle down and strengthen its democratic process, while showing people tangible benefits – soon. 


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