Joe Biden was sworn in Wednesday as the 46th president of the United States, in a moment his administration hoped would help unify the country after a divisive election.
Guarded by tens of thousands of national guard troops and other security members, the president described the many challenges facing the United States "in this winter of peril and significant possibility."
“We face an attack on our democracy, and on truth, a raging virus, a stinging inequity, systemic racism, a climate in crisis, America's role in the world,” Biden said. “Any one of these would be enough to challenge us in profound ways. But the fact is we face them all at once, presenting this nation with one of the greatest responsibilities we've had. Now we're going to be tested. Are we going to step up?
“It's time for boldness for there is so much to do,” he added. And this is certain, I promise you. We will be judged, you and I, by how we resolve these cascading crises of our era. We will rise to the occasion.”
Long before Wednesday’s inauguration, Biden signaled that the first days, weeks, and months of his term will focus on executive actions, legislative proposals, and efforts to recuperate international relationships.
On Day One of his administration, the president will repeal and reverse many executive actions taken by the previous administration that undermined global health and climate action, according to the New York Times. His administration will pursue a version of America that supports working-class people, advances racial and LGBTQ+ justice, and protects the environment.
Biden’s first political efforts will put the US in a better position to support the United Nations’ Global Goals, which aim to eliminate global poverty, ensure women’s rights, provide universal access to food and water, and much more.
Here are eight actions the Biden administration plans to take in an effort to tackle issues across health, hunger, education, the environment, and equality in 2021.
1. Rejoin the World Health Organization
The World Health Organization (WHO) helps countries contain diseases like COVID-19, promote good health and well-being for all, and improve health care infrastructure and capacity around the world.
In early 2020, the Trump administration announced its intention to withdraw from the WHO and eliminate all US funding to the multilateral organization.
On Day One, Biden said he will rejoin the WHO and support its global health goals.
2. Rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement
The Paris climate agreement is the framework countries came up with in 2015 to collectively tackle climate change and hold one another accountable. Not long after taking office, the Trump administration withdrew from the pact. Since the US is the world’s largest cumulative emitter of greenhouse gases, this decision imperiled the entire framework.
The Biden administration intends to immediately rejoin the Paris climate agreement and pledge US support to its goal of averting catastrophic climate change. Biden also plans to reinstate various regulations meant to curb greenhouse gas emissions, according to InsideClimate News.
3. Rescind the Mexico City Policy
On his fourth day in office, former President Trump implemented the Mexico City policy, also known as the Global Gag Rule, which prevents recipients of US foreign aid from providing sexual and reproductive health care to people.
The policy jeopardized funding for scores of health organizations that provide services “such as maternal and child health care, HIV testing and counseling, comprehensive sex education, and contraceptive services for the people who need them most,” the UN Foundation reported.
Biden plans to rescind the Mexico City policy and restore funding for organizations providing crucial health care and other services to women worldwide.
4. Send COVID-19 Support to States
The US response to COVID-19 has been hampered by a lack of federal guidance and oversight.
Early on in the crisis, former President Trump declined to help out by providing states with medical and personal protective equipment, and undermined state efforts to contain the virus, according to the New Yorker.
Today, the US has the highest death toll from COVID-19 in the world, having recently surpassed 400,000.
The Biden administration plans to use the full force of the federal government to contain the COVID-19 virus, accelerate vaccine distribution, and provide relief to communities across the country, according to the New York Times. For example, it intends to deploy the Federal Emergency Management Agency to set up vaccination locations across the US and enlist the National Guard to deliver vaccines. Biden ultimately hopes to vaccinate 100 million people in 100 days.
5. Join the ACT-Accelerator
The Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator is a global coalition of world leaders, global health organizations, and the private sector that aims to quickly develop life-saving tools against COVID-19 and ensure the equitable distribution of these resources globally.
More than 180 countries are involved in the ACT-Accelerator, but the US has yet to join. The Biden administration plans to join the ACT-Accelerator to speed up the global fight against COVID-19 and ensure people in low-income countries receive adequate health care.
6. Sign the 30x30 Biodiversity Preservation Initiative
The United Nations wants the next 10 years to be the Decade of Ecosystem Restoration and calls on countries to conserve 30% of the world’s land and marine spaces by 2030 through the 30x30 pledge. Protecting nearly a third of the planet would combat climate change, reverse species decline, improve food and water security, and much more.
The Biden administration has vowed to put the US on track to meeting this conservation target by 2030.
7. Stop the Keystone Pipeline
The Keystone Pipeline has been a political flashpoint for the past several years, representing a crossroads for both the US environmental and Indigenous rights movements. If completed, the pipeline would transport crude oil and further entrench the fossil fuel industry. Leaks from the pipeline have already caused extensive environmental harm. Activists have repeatedly called on the government to reject the pipeline’s permit and to focus instead on building sustainable forms of energy.
The Biden administration has announced that it will rescind the permit for the pipeline, granting an early victory to organizations fighting to protect the planet.
8. Restore Human Rights
The Biden administration plans to restore human rights undone by the previous administration by getting rid of the “Muslim ban,” reinstating protections for transgender students, and restoring protections for immigrants, according to Quartz. Biden also announced that he will launch a government-wide initiative to advance racial equality, calling on every agency to review how they can support this goal.