While America’s reputation has taken a hit in the climate change arena due to the Trump administration, the US still remains a global powerhouse. What Joe Biden does (or is allowed to do) to tackle the climate crisis, will have repercussions worldwide.
The new President-Elect has pledged a highly ambitious climate agenda, and in his Plan for a Clean Energy Revolution and Environmental Justice he outlines his key goals:
- 100 per cent clean energy economy and net-zero emissions no later than 2050
- Federal investments of $1.7 trillion over next ten years, leveraging additional private sector, state, and local investments to total more than $5 trillion in clean energy projects
- Rally the rest of the world to meet the threat of climate change
While these pledges are encouraging, the reality of fulfilling these goals depends on whether he controls the senate (the rough equivalent of the UK Houses of Parliament). This hinges upon the vote for two seats for the senate in Georgia on 5 January.
If Biden wins both seats in Georgia, he will control the balance of power in Washington. This would give him a fighting chance of passing these policies through the Senate. If the Republicans win the control, it is highly likely that Biden’s progressive climate policies will be blocked, but even in this case, there is still cause for some optimism.
One of the first environmental headlines to come out of the victory of the new President-Elect was his commitment to re-join the Paris agreement, something welcome by environmentalist and world leaders alike.
The Climate Coalition, an alliance of organisations committed to climate action in the UK, said: “President-Elect Joe Biden recognises that the time is now for climate action. His presidency could accelerate the world towards a cleaner, greener future that works for everyone.”
Biden has also attracted attention by publishing the contents of his first calls with various world leaders, including UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, German chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, all of which included tackling the climate crisis.
In reanimating the Paris talks, experts also believe that the US can have a much bigger effect than just reducing its own emissions, with new hope of fulfilling the Paris agreement targets of limiting climate change to two degrees.
Laurence Tubiana, chief executive of the European Climate Foundation, summed up the mood for many in a tweet: “After holding our breath we can unlock all our energy to make 2021 the winning year for climate and sustainable development.”
What else will Biden focus on?
With coronavirus still dominating, Biden will have his hands full with his domestic agenda, and analysts have predicted that this means a trade deal with the UK will not be a top priority for the incoming president.
He is likely to focus on re-establishing the US presence at international organisations such as the World Health Organisation, while his election has also been welcomed by global scientists who expect a more pro-science-based approach to decisions, in contrast to his predecessor.
In the meantime, and despite the UK’s new Agriculture Act failing to ban low-quality imports in law, it looks like chlorinated chicken could be off the menu.