By Adam Vaughan
US vice president-elect Kamala Harris and president-elect Joe Biden
Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS
US president-elect Joe Biden has said he will listen to science, promising to take new stances on tackling covid-19, climate change and other key issues.
Along with Kamala Harris, the first black, Indian-American and female US vice president-elect, the pairs transition team pledged to double the number of drive-through coronavirus testing sites, address PPE shortages and work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to dial up or down social distancing.
The new administration will also establish a new covid-19 taskforce, allocate $25 billion  for vaccine development and cancel plans for the US to leave the World Health Organization.
This approach contrasts with the Trump administration, which sent mixed messages on mask-wearing and undermined key science agencies fighting to limit the virus’s spread. However, as Biden will not be inaugurated until 20 January next year, he is likely to inherit a far worse epidemic than todays.
As the US election dominated attention, the countrys covid-19 cases and deaths surged to their highest levels yet. More than 100,000 daily cases were reported for three days in a row between 4 and 6 November the first time over the threshold – taking the US near the milestone of 10 million cumulatively. Daily deaths have yet to reach the heights they hit in April, but have started to edge up.
The incoming administrations efforts on covid-19 will overlap with one of its other top priorities, tackling racism, with the creation of a taskforce on ethnic disparities around the illness. So far, black Americans have accounted for 108.4 deaths per 100,000 people, almost twice that for white Americans.
The new presidency will also mark a break with Trumps approach to climate change. Biden has said when he takes office he will immediately reverse Trumps withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement on 4 November, and call on other countries to increase their ambition.
His transition team said they would put the US on an irreversible path to achieve net-zero emissions, economy-wide, by no later than 2050. The move would cut 0.1°C off global warming, estimated analysts Climate Action Tracker. The group said that combined with net zero targets from China, Japan, South Korea and other countries, a tipping point was being approached to bring the Paris accords 1.5°C target within reach.
Although the Democratic partys lack of control of the Senate may limit how bold the new administration can be on carbon emissions, there is plenty it could deliver. Biden said in debates he would transition from the oil industry, and promised to end new drill leases for public land and water, which would have a big impact offshore.
Unlike his rival in the Democrat presidential candidate race, Elizabeth Warren, he does not support a break-up of technology titans. However, a case brought by the US government last month accusing Google of being a monopoly gatekeeper may still go ahead under Biden. Trump, meanwhile, will on 20 January lose the privileges world leaders enjoy on Twitter, meaning he could face bans for future inflammatory tweets.
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