Newly-inaugurated president Joseph R. Biden, Jr. has reversed two key policy moves of his predecessor, Donald Trump: namely, the latter’s decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement on climate change and to stop U.S. funding to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Biden, who was sworn in on January 20th at the United States Capitol in Washington D.C. after winning last year’s presidential election, made the moves as part of a raft of executive orders he signed shortly after assuming office. Biden also signed the U.S. up to COVAX, an initiative to ensure the provision of COVID-19 vaccines to low- and middle-income countries, according to his chief medical advisor.
The U.S. formally withdrew from the Paris agreement last year, three years after Trump signalled his intent to do so. The decision by Trump to step away from the Paris agreement led to countries including India announce they would step up their commitments to fighting climate change. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the country would “go above and beyond” in the fight against climate change following Trump’s announcement the U.S. would withdraw. This came despite the Modi administration’s initial reluctance to join the accord. India is among the countries most vulnerable to the catastrophic effects of climate change.
Last year also saw Trump announce his intention to withdraw U.S. funding from the WHO. He alleged mishandling by the agency of its early handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and accused it of improper ties with China, variously calling the agency “China-centric” and “a puppet of China.” Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. financial support from the agency in the midst of a global pandemic elicited anger and frustration from across the globe.
The reversal by Biden of these decisions has been welcomed by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. “I warmly welcome President Biden’s steps to re-enter the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and join the growing coalition of governments, cities, states, businesses and people taking ambitious action to confront the climate crisis,” he said. “We look forward to the leadership of the United States in accelerating global efforts towards net zero, including by bringing forward a new nationally determined contribution with ambitious 2030 targets and climate finance in advance of COP26 in Glasgow later this year.”
Of the decision to rejoin the WHO, a statement from Guterres’s spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said “the Secretary-General welcomes the United States’ stated re-engagement with the World Health Organization. Supporting the WHO is absolutely critical to the world’s efforts for a better coordinated response against COVID-19. Now is the time for unity and for the international community to work together in solidarity to stop this virus and its shattering consequences.
“With vaccines being a critical tool in the battle against COVID-19, the United States joining and supporting the COVAX facility will give momentum to efforts to ensure equitable access to vaccines for all countries.”