When the US formally exited the Paris Accord last November - a decision brought about by President Donald Trump in 2017 - Joe Biden tweeted that "in exactly 77 days, a Biden Administration will rejoin it".

The landmark agreement, drafted in 2015 to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, was dismissed by Mr Trump five months after his inauguration as nothing more than "the latest example of Washington entering into an agreement that disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefits of other countries".

"Thus, as of today, the United States will cease all implementation of the non-binding Paris Accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country," he declared and has consistently questioned the validity of the scientific consensus on climate chance since.

"This includes ending the implementation of the nationally determined contribution and, very importantly, the Green Climate Fund which is costing the United States a vast fortune."

Mr Biden, meanwhile, said in July: "I know meeting the challenge would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to jolt new life into our economy, strengthen our global leadership, protect our planet for future generations."

"If I have the honour of being elected president, we're not just going to tinker around the edges. We're going to make historic investments that will seize the opportunity, meet this moment in history."

Now Mr Biden will become America's 47th President, his pledge to make "critical investments" into climate change will turn the attention to Australia's own backyard - particularly the views of Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

During a speech on Friday night, local time, Mr Biden said that "what is becoming clear each hour is that record numbers of Americans of all races, faiths, religions, chose change over more of the same".

"They have given us a mandate for action on COVID, the economy, climate change, systemic racism. They have made it clear that they want the country to come together, not continue to pull apart."

Under a Biden administration, the US will have "the most progressive position on climate change in the nation's history", Australian National University's Christian Downie wrote in a piece for The Conversation.

The "historic" US$2 trillion clean energy and infrastructure plan is to achieve a power sector that's free from carbon pollution by 2035; a goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 and to, among other goals, upgrade four million buildings and two million homes over the course of his term to meet new energy efficiency standards.

While the plan could be constrained by a likely Republican Senate, "what's needed are ambitious targets and mandates for the power sector, transport sector and manufacturing sector, backed up with billions in government investment", Dr Downie wrote.

"Fortunately, this is precisely what Biden is promising to do."

 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, on the other hand, has been resistant to commit to a net-zero emissions target - something that's supported by Labor, all seven of Australia's states and territories, and more than 70 countries around the world.

The Federal Government instead has outlined a technology road map with an implicit goal of hitting the target in the second half of this century.

Mr Morrison's British counterpart, Boris Johnson, stressed in a telephone conversation, "that we need bold action to address climate change".

The election of Mr Biden, Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox told The Australian, should "spur" Mr Morrison to finally sign onto the call.

"The case for adopting an Australian goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 was already strong, given the climate impacts we face and the falling costs of solutions," Mr Willox said.

"The fact that most of our biggest trading partners are adopting net zero - China, Japan, South Korea, the EU, the UK, and now the potential of a Biden-led USA - should spur Australia not just to do likewise, but to reposition our economy to thrive in a net-zero emissions world."

Scott Morrison could face four years of “constant criticism” over Australia’s climate change policies. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Dylan Coker
Scott Morrison could face four years of “constant criticism” over Australia’s climate change policies. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Dylan Coker

If Mr Morrison doesn't align Australia's commitment with the "ambitious climate policies of a Biden administration", Dr Downie wrote, "in every international negotiation our diplomats turn up to, climate change will not only be top of the agenda, but we will likely face constant criticism".

"With Biden now in the White House, it's not just global climate politics that will be turned on its head," he said.

"Australia's failure to implement a serious domestic climate and energy policy could have profound costs. Costs, mind you, that are easily avoidable if Australia acts on climate change, and does so now."


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