Joe Biden, newly sworn in as the 46th President of the United States, has moved quickly to erase Donald Trump's legacy by signing a series of executive orders that reverse his predecessor's policies. The orders include returning the US to the Paris climate accord, ending Trump's travel ban on some majority-Muslim countries, and mandating mask-wearing in federal buildings.
When asked by a reporter what it felt like to be returning to the White House, Biden said it "feels like I'm going home". Just after delivering his inaugural address, the President declared he would start working right away to deliver on his agenda.
"There is no time to waste when it comes to tackling the crises we face," Biden wrote on Twitter. "That's why today, I am heading to the Oval Office to get right to work delivering bold action."
The executive order to return the United States to the Paris climate accord - one of Biden's first official acts - could put the US on track to cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 40 per cent to 50 per cent by 2030, experts said. "A cry for survival comes from the planet itself," Biden said in his inaugural address. "A cry that can't be any more desperate or any more clear now."
The move reverses the US withdrawal ordered by Donald Trump, who belittled the science behind climate efforts, loosened regulations on heat-trapping oil, gas and coal emissions, and spurred oil and gas leasing in pristine Arctic tundra and other wilderness.
Returning the US to the accord will solidify political will globally, former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. "Not a single country in this world, however powerful, however resourceful one may be, can do it alone," said Ban. "We have to put all our hands on the deck. That is the lesson, very difficult lesson, which we have learned during last year."
Biden's executive order ending "the Muslim ban" – which refers to the travel bans placed on predominantly Muslim and African countries - is another significant reversal of Trump-era policy.
The 2017 list, which included countries such as Iran, Yemen, Somalia and Syria, saw multiple revisions – including the addition of Venezuela and North Korea – and was expanded in 2020 to include a number of African countries. The initial 2017 ban saw protests at airports when it was implemented in the early days of the Trump administration.
The Biden transition team said the order would restart visa processing and to "swiftly develop a proposal to restore fairness and remedy the harms caused by the bans, especially for individuals stuck in the waiver process and those who had immigrant visas denied".
Ending emergency funds to build continue construction of the wall on the Mexican border was also on the list of Biden's exectuive orders. The wall was one of Trump's signature policies, which has seen 725,000 metres of wall built since 2017. Biden's order directs "an immediate pause" on projects to allow a "close review" of the legality of the funding for the wall, and how to redirect funds that were put to the wall by the Trump administration.
Biden will be signing an order strengthening the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme, an Obama-era policy. It grants protection from deportation for illegal immigrants brought to the country as children. Trump had attempted to reverse the order but was rebuffed by the Supreme Court.
Other moves expected to come from Biden include:
• Revoking the Trump administration's plan to exclude non-citizens from the census and the apportionment of congressional seats.
• Revoking Trump's previous order that directed aggressive immigration enforcement.
• Re-engagement with the World Health Organisation, after Trump's decision to withdraw in 2020.
• Rejoining the Iran nuclear deal.
- additional reporting: AP