US to rejoin Paris Climate Agreement and World Health Organization

21 Jan 2021

Image: © dbvirago/

In his first day in office, US president Joe Biden signed executive orders to reverse a number of policies from the Trump administration.

Newly inaugurated US president Joe Biden has signed 15 executive actions and two directives on his first day in office.

Several of these orders are an attempt to walk back policies and decisions brought in under Donald Trump’s administration, including leaving the Paris Climate Agreement and withdrawing from the World Health Organization (WHO).

The Paris Agreement is a legally binding international treaty on the climate crisis that came into effect in 2016. The US formally left the treaty on 4 November 2020, after Trump declared it a “draconian” international deal.

Trump had also announced plans to cut ties with the WHO, a move that was widely criticised by experts and global bodies including the UN, which said the move would be catastrophic for public health especially during a global pandemic. Under Biden, this withdrawal will now be halted.

Biden’s actions also included an order to review all of Trump’s policies that weakened climate action and the revocation of a permit for the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline project from Canada.

‘An uphill battle’

While returning to the Paris Agreement is a vital step in terms of climate action, the last four years have caused the US to fall behind its original targets to slash greenhouse gas emissions.

During his campaign, Biden announced a $2trn climate plan to reduce emissions. This included upgrading buildings to make them more efficient, and investing in public transport and electric vehicle manufacturing. He also proposed making US electricity production carbon-free by 2035 and having the country achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

But as editor Elaine Burke wrote last November when Biden was declared winner of the election, the new administration will have an uphill battle when it comes to undoing the damage wrought by Trump’s administration.

“While Biden’s win is being celebrated as a welcome return of science to the White House, we must remember that the science was always there – albeit ignored,” she said.

Jenny Darmody is the editor of Silicon Republic