Joe Biden has vowed to return the US to the fold as a vocal advocate in the fight against climate change, which could have a significant impact around the globe.
The President-elect has announced that one of his first acts in office will be to reinstate the US to the international Paris Agreement on climate change, which Donald Trump has shunned during his presidency.
Biden has also promised to commit the US to reaching net zero emissions by 2050. His proposed plan includes a £1.6 trillion stimulus plan to achieve zero carbon electricity by 2035, improve energy efficiency in buildings and accelerate the rollout of electric vehicles.
While there will be a tough challenge pushing these domestic reforms through what could remain a Republican-majority Senate, renewed American leadership on the international stage could well have a resounding effect on climate action around the world.
Returning to Paris
The Paris Agreement was brokered in 2015 and saw nearly 200 countries agree for the first time to collectively take action to reduce their carbon emissions in a bid to limit global warming.
Donald Trump has been a vocal critic of the agreement and began the process of pulling the US out in 2017. It left the US with just Syria and Nicaragua as the only countries not party to the accord. The process of leaving took two years and was only completed earlier this month.
However, despite the sitting President’s opinions, climate action has remained broadly popular with the US private sector. A large collection of cities, states and leading companies have already committed to play their part in delivering the Paris Agreement, regardless of the nation’s formal status.
‘All hands on deck’
In a bid to bring the country out from the cold, Biden has named John Kerry as his special climate envoy. The former US secretary of state played a leading role in brokering the original Paris Agreement under Barack Obama’s presidency.
Commenting on his appointment, John Kerry tweeted: “The work we began with the Paris Agreement is far from done. I’m returning to government to get America back on track to address the biggest challenge of this generation and those that will follow. The climate crisis demands nothing less than all hands on deck.”
‘Historic tipping point’
As the world’s largest economy, accounting for around 14 per cent of global carbon emissions, the US is crucial to the global effort to tackle the climate emergency. Aligning with the requirements of the Paris Agreement could shave 0.1˚C off global warming and bring the goals of the Paris Agreement “within reach”, according to the independent climate watchdog Climate Action Tracker.
Experts had been concerned that a second term under Trump would have encouraged other major emitters - such as Brazil, Australia, Russia and Saudi Arabia - to weaken their own commitments. Now, there is likely to be growing confidence that the global community will be willing to ratchet up collective action at COP26, the next major UN climate summit to be hosted in Glasgow in 2021.
Niklas Höhne of NewClimate Institute, a Climate Action Tracker partner organisation, said: “This could be an historic tipping point: with Biden’s election China, the USA , EU, Japan, South Korea - two thirds of the world economy and over 50 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions – would have net zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century commitments.
“What can other countries now do other than follow this overwhelming trend to net zero greenhouse gas emissions?”
Posted under General Interest and Climate Change and What it Means to You on 25 November 2020