President Joe Biden will be in office, come one-minute past noon on January 20.
The US will, that very day, rejoin the Paris climate pact.
But what happens next?
How does the US, the second biggest carbon emitter in the world, become consistently climate conscious, by federal order, no matter who’s in the White House?
It would have to be by congressional approval. That’s the only way legislation can be passed to ensure green policies govern the future regardless of the person or party that holds the presidency.
As of now, a fortnight since US election day, this seems rather doubtful.
The 100-member senate, one chamber of Congress, still has a one-seat Republican majority (with a tie-breaking vote available to cast by Donald Trump’s vice-president Mike Pence). The Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has already said of ambitious green policies that “if I’m still the majority leader in the Senate think of me as the Grim Reaper…None of that stuff is going to pass”.
A President Biden can, just like Barack Obama, use executive orders to push climate-friendly policies or, as Mr Trump did, to reverse them. Mr Obama was unable to get the Republican-controlled Senate to ratify the Paris Agreement. Therefore, Mr Trump was able to withdraw from the deal on his own initiative and without the need for congressional approval.
US presidential executive orders remain an all too short-term measure. The world could never be sure of a firm US buy-in to tackle the climate crisis. (Read this comment by Heike Schroeder, UEA Professor of Environmental Governance.)
But if the southern state of Georgia elected two Democrats to the senate on January 5, there might be a chance to pass the required legislation. It’s doubtful the solidly Republican state would really favour the Democrats in the run-off senatorial elections. That said, Mr Biden did win the state this time round, flipping a 30-year Republican dead-cert.
The climate is on the ballot in Georgia on January 5.
And Georgia is on our collective mind.