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

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President Joe Biden takes office today. 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 US energy and transportation infrastructure is out of date, and the country has not yet made a big leap into low-carbon manufacturing.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. 

 Read the full perspective.

For more information please contact: 

Annika Flensburg, Press Officer Stockholm Environment Institute, +46 73 901 60 11 (CET time zone)

Emily Yehle, Senior Communication Officer, (PST time zone)

Stockholm Environment Institute is an international non-profit research and policy organization that tackles environment and development challenges. We connect science and decision-making to develop solutions for a sustainable future for all. Across our eight centres in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas, we engage with policy processes, development action and business practice throughout the world. @SEIresearch @SEIclimate