Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Indigenous leaders participate in a protest march and rally in opposition to the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines in front of the White House in Washington, on March 10, 2017.

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

The Joe Biden green revolution will be coming to the United States – and Canada – a lot more slowly than people think. But one part, the decision on nixing the Keystone XL pipeline, could be here a lot faster than Justin Trudeau’s government would like.

As a candidate, Mr. Biden was in a hurry to act on climate change, but as the next president, he now faces a divided Congress that will force him to negotiate and compromise, no matter who eventually wins control of the Senate.

His pledge to withdraw the permits for the Keystone XL oil pipeline, however, could in theory be accomplished with a stroke of the pen, on Day One of a Biden presidency.

Story continues below advertisement

While Mr. Trudeau’s government is hoping to change Mr. Biden’s mind, its goal right now is just to persuade him to put off the decision until Canada can make its case directly.

That’s the message Mr. Trudeau wanted to convey when he congratulated Mr. Biden in a phone call Nov. 9, and it’s the message that Canadian officials will try to get to Mr. Biden’s transition team: Give us a chance to have our say.

The president-elect knows that major climate legislation won’t get through a divided Congress in the midst of a pandemic and an economic recession, so he will look to take actions that are within the power of the president. He promised to recommit the U.S. to the Paris Agreement on his first day in office. Killing Keystone XL might be another way to satisfy environmentalists in his party.

Mr. Trudeau wants to make Mr. Biden an ally on climate change – it is good for Liberal politics, and good for trade to co-ordinate such policies with U.S. But he’d rather not start with the cancellation of the pipeline, and the criticism it will bring from Alberta.

Both the feds and Alberta government privately think saving the pipeline is a long shot. There are glimmers of hope: The project has significant union backing, and Mr. Biden is closely allied with labour. But the president-elect’s campaign promise was unequivocal. And many Democrats support it. Washington State Governor Jay Inslee, reportedly being considered for Mr. Biden’s cabinet as energy secretary or head of the Environmental Protection Agency, has called Keystone XL “a disaster waiting to happen.”

Most of the things that Mr. Biden can do quickly on climate change are things Mr. Trudeau’s government would applaud.

Rejoining the Paris Agreement is a symbol that the U.S. wants to back global emissions reductions. Mr. Biden promised to reduce methane emissions, a revival of abandoned regulations introduced under former president Barack Obama, and agreed with Canada and Mexico. He has promised to reverse the Trump administration’s deregulation orders.

Story continues below advertisement

But the big broad agenda requires congressional co-operation. And even if the Democrats win narrow control of the Senate in two Georgia runoffs, Mr. Biden’s proposal for legislation to put the U.S. on a path to be a net-zero economy by 2050, for example, might bump into Joe Manchin, the Democratic senator from coal-producing West Virginia.

Mr. Biden’s platform didn’t include carbon pricing, but it did include targets for eliminating emissions in power generation. It implied national reduction targets would be set. It indicated carbon border-adjustment fees would be applied on high-carbon imports. Together, the proposals might push Canada, and other countries, to adopt more stringent regulation, said Josha McNabb, the national policy director for the Pembina Institute.

But much of it will be drowned in a divided Congress. Or delayed. Even if some Republicans accept the idea of carbon border adjustments, it would take a lot of steps to get there.

There is still a lot of reasons for Mr. Trudeau to want Mr. Biden to see him as a climate partner, though.

Mr. Biden’s big hope of advancing his climate agenda is by persuading Congress to include some of his green spending plans, on infrastructure, research-and-development, transportation and procurement, in its economic stimulus plans. In Mr. Biden’s platform, those are all based on protectionist Buy American provisions.

For Mr. Trudeau, that means working with Mr. Biden on climate over the next four years may be in large part about trade. Once again, the Keystone XL decision is going to be one of the first flashpoints, and the PM is hoping it doesn’t come too soon.

Story continues below advertisement

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies