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U.S. poised to rejoin global health, climate efforts

Elected 46th president of the United States on Saturday, Democrat Joe Biden signaled policy reversals to combat the pandemic and global warming.

WASHINGTON (AN) — Elected 46th president of the United States on Saturday, Democrat Joe Biden wasted no time signaling a rapid series of policy reversals to come starting with renewed multilateral efforts to combat the pandemic and global warming.

The president-elect and his running mate, Kamala Harris, crossed the winning threshold of 270 Electoral College votes needed in the November 3 election to wrest the White House from Republican President Donald Trump. Harris will become the first Black woman and first Asian American woman to serve as vice president.

It took days of ballot counting to ascertain that Biden secured the votes needed to defeat Trump after pulling ahead in Pennsylvania. A final vote count from other states with close margins has still not been determined, largely due to the huge number of write-in ballots. Biden immediately sought to heal divisions and put in place a transition team, while Trump refused to concede and complained the vote was rigged without providing any evidence of election-tampering.

Biden said his victory — he also led Trump by more than 4 million popular votes amid a record 66% in eligible voter turnout — was a call to "marshal the forces" of decency, fairness, science and hope in bringing an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, rebuilding the U.S. economy, ensuring families have adequate health care and rooting out systemic racism.

"And the battle to save our planet by getting climate under control. The battle to restore decency, defend democracy, and give everybody in this country a fair shot," Biden told a cheering crowd at a drive-in rally in Delaware, which he long represented in the U.S. Senate. "That's all they're asking for, a fair shot. Folks, our work begins with getting COVID under control."

He is expected to reverse Trump's decision in May to withdraw from the World Health Organization, and to restore U.S. ties with the COVAX Facility, which is co-led by WHO; Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. It is working to accelerate COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee that all nations have fair and equitable access.

Biden planned to announce on Monday his appointees to a 12-member panel that will oversee the new administration's efforts at ending the pandemic. The panel aims to help develop and deliver a vaccine while improving health data and supply chains.

Carbon neutrality by 2050

Biden also has promised to immediately rejoin the 2015 Paris Agreement on curbing the worst impacts of global warming this century. The United States formally departed from the treaty this past Wednesday, which was the result of the Trump administration's formal withdrawal notice to the United Nations exactly one year earlier.

On January 20, 2021, Biden's first day as president, he has said he will return the United States to the Paris climate treaty. None of the almost 200 nations that signed onto the deal, which took effect on November 4, 2016, were able to leave it for the first three years. The United States became the first and only nation to withdraw under a process that takes a year to complete.

Rejoining the treaty does not require approval by the U.S. Congress, and readmission would take effect just 30 days later. The European Union and 189 nations that ratified it emit almost 90% of all greenhouse gases. China accounts for 28% and is the world’s biggest carbon polluter, while the United States accounts for 15% and is the second-biggest carbon polluter, according to data and analysis by the U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists.

As the U.S. rejoins the Paris treaty, the Biden-Harris administration also vows to overhaul domestic climate and environmental policies by focusing on clean energy technologies, high fuel standards for cars and SUVs and more incentives for renewable power. That comes not a moment too soon, say prominent climate scientists and advocates such as former Vice President Al Gore who believes the world is at a crucial "tipping point" in the global fight to solve the climate crisis.

“Now is the time to translate this momentum into a just and equitable recovery program centered on clean energy solutions," Gore said in a statement on the Biden-Harris victory. "Now we must restore American leadership on the global stage and push the community of nations toward greater ambition on climate.”