President Joe Biden has returned the United States to the worldwide fight to slow global warming in one of his first official acts and has immediately launched a series of climate-friendly efforts that will transform how Americans drive and get their power.
"A cry for survival comes from the planet itself," Biden said in his inaugural address on Wednesday. "A cry that can't be any more desperate or any more clear now."
Biden signed an executive order rejoining the Paris climate accord within hours of taking the oath of office, fulfilling a campaign pledge. The move undoes the US withdrawal ordered by predecessor Donald Trump, who belittled the science behind climate efforts, loosened regulations on heat-trapping oil, gas and coal emissions, and spurred oil and gas leasing in pristine Arctic tundra and other wilderness.
The Paris accord commits 195 countries and other signatories to come up with a goal to reduce carbon pollution and monitor and report their fossil fuel emissions. The United States is the world's No.2 carbon emitter after China.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed Biden's steps, saying the US re-entry to the climate agreement means countries producing two-thirds of carbon pollution have committed to carbon neutrality.
Biden signed other directives to start undoing other Trump climate rollbacks. He ordered a temporary moratorium on new oil and gas leasing in what had been virgin Arctic wilderness, directed federal agencies to start looking at tougher mileage standards and other emission limits again, and began revoking Trump's approval for the Keystone XL oil and gas pipeline.
Another first-day order directed agencies to consider the impact on climate, disadvantaged communities, and on future generations from any regulatory action that affects fossil fuel emissions.
After Biden notifies the UN by letter of his intention to rejoin the Paris accord, it will become effective in 30 days.
Rejoining the Paris accords could put the US on track to cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 40 per cent to 50 per cent by 2030, experts say.
Opponents of the climate accord, including Republican lawmakers who supported Trump's withdrawal from it, have said it would mean higher petrol prices and higher electricity prices - even though wind and solar have become more affordable than coal, and competitive with natural gas, in generating electricity.
Australian Associated Press