A Seismic shift occurred Wednesday, as U.S. President Joe Biden took the oath of office and stood before the American people, and the world, and vowed the climate crisis was among his top priorities for the nation.

A Seismic shift occurred Wednesday, as U.S. President Joe Biden took the oath of office and stood before the American people, and the world, and vowed the climate crisis was among his top priorities for the nation.

"A cry for survival comes from the planet itself. A cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear," Biden said in his inaugural address.

"We will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again. Not to meet yesterday’s challenges, but today’s and tomorrow’s. We will lead not merely by the example of our power but by the power of our example."

After four years of slashed environmental regulations, inaction on climate change and the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement under former president Donald Trump, the gap between the two approaches to the existential threat is enormous.

"It represents a tectonic shift globally, in terms of how we decide, as humanity, to respond to climate change. And I think one of the most significant parts of this is that the American government has now realigned itself with science," said Ian Mauro, executive director of the University of Winnipeg-based Prairie Climate Centre.

That move towards embracing science and fact-based approaches applies not just to climate change but also the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.

"And so, as a foundation for moving forward, we will be using evidence. And evidence indicates that this is a problem that requires absolutely enormous amounts of effort, strategy and resources devoted to solving the issue of climate change."

Mauro points out this shift effectively means, overnight, the U.S. has leapfrogged Canada in terms of climate goals and progressive rhetoric.

On his first day as president, Biden took two notable actions in the climate file: the U.S. rejoined the Paris Agreement and revoked permits for the Keystone XL pipeline.

Keystone XL was intended to move 830,000 barrels of crude oil per day from the oilsands in northern Alberta to Nebraska, where it would connect to a previously-built pipeline and carry oil to the Gulf Coast.

Jane McDonald, executive vice-president for Winnipeg-based International Institute for Sustainable Development, previously served as a policy adviser to Liberal MP Catherine McKenna, when McKenna was Canada’s minister of environment and climate change.

From McDonald’s perspective, a lot of media attention has been focused on the loss of the pipeline and potential drawbacks of the Biden presidency on the Canadian economy. What she hopes to see more of moving forward is a recognition of how much this could instead benefit Canada’s green economy.

"Biden’s platform talked about a shared strategy around the shift to electric vehicles, about increasing cross-border electricity — which is definitely in Canada’s interest. He talks about environmental spending, that means a much bigger market for Canada’s clean-tech companies. So there are a lot of places here that we can engage, and where there are market opportunities to get moving on with our largest trading partner," McDonald said.

Despite the fact Canada has moved forward on the climate file in the last four years, meaningful progress is difficult when your largest trading partner isn’t at the table, she added.

Manitoba Minister of Conservation and Climate Sarah Guillemard echoed McDonald’s focus on the opportunities created under the new U.S. administration.

"I look forward to working toward common objectives in our efforts to address climate change, as well as creating opportunities for economic growth in green technologies," she said Wednesday in a statement to the Free Press.

sarah.lawrynuik@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @SarahLawrynuik

Sarah Lawrynuik

Sarah Lawrynuik
Reporter

Sarah Lawrynuik reports on climate change for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press climate change reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.

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