US president Joe Biden has pledged to put climate change at the heart of his domestic and foreign agenda, rejecting claims that tackling the issue will mean fewer jobs.
Announcing a series of executive actions at the White House on Wednesday, Mr Biden said climate change was "one of the most pressing threats of our time" as he pledged to create "millions of jobs" in clean energy.
“We’ve already waited too long to deal with this climate crisis. We can’t wait any longer,” he said.
His special presidential envoy for climate, John Kerry, earlier announced that the US would host a summit of world leaders to mark Earth Day on April 22nd.
The event, which is expected to be mostly virtual, will take place six months before the COP26 summit in Glasgow – the centre-piece of this year’s global efforts to tackle the climate emergency.
Mr Biden’s prioritisation of environmental actions so early in his presidency marks a significant break with the Trump administration, which rolled back several environmental regulations and pulled the US out of the Paris Climate Accord, a decision Mr Biden reversed on his first day in office.
His appointment of Mr Kerry, a former secretary of state who helped negotiate the 2015 Paris accord, is regarded as underlining his commitment to the issue.
Mr Biden’s measures have already proven controversial. Among the executive actions taken on Wednesday was a decision to stop issuing leases for oil and gas exploration on federal land, while existing leases will be reviewed.
This move will impact on states like New Mexico and Wyoming, though drilling on state-owned and private land will continue. It follows his suspension of the controversial Keystone oil pipeline last week, a move that irked Canada.
Fracking has not been banned, Mr Biden said.
While the US president has moved quickly to enact environmental actions through executive orders, more lasting environmental policy will be achieved by legislation which needs the approval of Congress.