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Climate Campaigners Applaud Biden on Vow to Pull Plug on Keystone XL Permit

"We'll need just this kind of climate ambition to make way for a livable planet in the next four years."

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event at the Prairie Hill Pavilion January 27, 2020 in Marion, Iowa. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event at the Prairie Hill Pavilion January 27, 2020 in Marion, Iowa. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Campaigners called it the kind of climate leadership they hope to see more of from Joe Biden after the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee's campaign on Monday said he would withdraw the federal permit for the Keystone XL pipeline if elected in November.

"Biden strongly opposed the Keystone pipeline in the last administration, stood alongside President Obama and Secretary Kerry to reject it in 2015, and will proudly stand in the Roosevelt Room again as President and stop it for good by rescinding the Keystone XL pipeline permit," Biden campaign policy director Stef Feldman said in a statement to Politico.

While the Obama administration reluctantly rejected the KXL project in 2015 after years of grassroots pressure—including mass arrests outside Obama'a White House—from Native American tribal leaders and a climate coalition spearheaded by 350.org, the Trump administration made approving the project one of its first orders of business when it took over in 2017.

Biden's pitiful climate platform received among the worst grades during the Democratic primary from environmental groups who warned that only the kind of ambition being voice by candidates like Gov. Jay Islee of Washington, Sens . Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren, or billionaire investor Tom Steyer were adequate to the threat posed by the planetary crisis.

Tamara Toles O'Laughlin, North America director for 350 Action—which last year denounced Biden's climate policies as "uniquely bad"—welcomed his new vow to tear up the presidential pipeline order signed by Trump.

"Rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline is the touchstone of any meaningful plan to address the climate crisis," O'Laughlin said. "Joe Biden is signaling a willingness to stand up to Big Oil for the benefit of people and the planet. We'll need just this kind of climate ambition to make way for a livable planet in the next four years. We need officials at every level of government to take on bold measures necessary to keep fossil fuels in the ground and invest in a renewable energy economy that works for all."

"Many thanks to the indigenous groups, farmers and ranchers, climate scientists and everyone else who with years of struggle have made Keystone an unavoidable touchstone issue," tweeted 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben.

Steyer in a tweet also thanked Biden for "showing the leadership we need to address the climate crisis."

While climate action campaigners are rightly skeptical of Biden's commitment to far-reaching policies on the issue, writer and organizer Karyn Strickler in a Common Dreams op-ed last month said there is no choice but to force the former Vice President to rethink his agenda and become "the climate-commander-in-chief" the nation and world so desperately needs.

"With scientific estimates of about 11 years to slow climate change, the 2020 election may represent one of our last chances to prioritize climate change in the voting booth," Strickler wrote. "The next 4 years is more than one third of the time we have for action, signaling the crucial need for Joe Biden to emulate Bernie Sanders’ tough stand and prioritize climate change. We have more immediate needs in the face of a global pandemic, which is itself exacerbated by climate change, but if we don’t slow climate change in short order, no other issue will matter."

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