Can the election of Joe Biden help solve climate change?

Dan Wood

Dan Wood

Biden focuses on climate change as a part of the united states energy policy

Yes. Without any doubt, Joe Biden being president will ensure the United States is tackling climate change. And we’ll tell you why and how from policy pledges ahead of his election, his actions soon after his inauguration and what he has set out to do in his first 50 days. 

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Yes – The election of Joe Biden is going to help solve climate change 

The successful election of Joe Biden will help solve climate change, ensuring the second largest economy in the world is doing its part. Doing a far better job than his predecessor, who not only withdrew the United States from the Paris Agreement but also took a number of steps to increase carbon emissions and global warming during his four years in office. 

Whilst most political leaders and parties at least accept that global warming is happening, and might have different ideas on how to tackle the problem, Trump and factions of the Republican party have often dismissed the issue. Ahead of the election, this led to some very polar opposite policies, with some scary possibilities if Trump had won a second term. However, that being said the next question is how does Biden intend to do it. Joe had a very clear set of policies during the election campaign regarding how he felt he would get the job done, and some targets to hit too. 

Green new deal - Opposing policies on climate change

Ahead of the election, both candidates had very different policies on climate change

Let’s start with the obvious and most important policy difference – The Paris Agreement. What is that? The Paris agreement is a legally binding international treaty on climate change. An agreement of various actions that each nation would enact in order to achieve a mutually agreed global warning target. To reduce global warming temperatures to below 2 degrees celsius (ideally 1.5) compared to pre-industrial levels, each nation reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. 

Trump early on in his presidency removed the U.S from the Paris agreement, dismissing the case for climate change, reversing policies and dismantling environmental agencies that were actively reducing emissions in the country. Biden made it clear that he would not only rejoin the agreement if elected but would also invest $2 trillion into reaching net zero emissions by 2050.

Trump digs coal

What is the Paris agreement? 

The Paris Agreement is the most important international agreement ever signed on climate change. It was signed in Paris, in 2015, at a council convened by the United Nations. It states: 

  • That signature will limit global warming to between 1.5 and 2 degrees celsius
  • That carbon neutrality will be achieved by 2050
  • That climate change is a common concern of humankind 
  • That climate change must be tackled by both governments and individuals alike
  • That parties must protect the rights of indigenous peoples

The UN has signed similarly significant documents before, most notably the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in 1948. However, for the Paris Agreement to have the same impact, it is clear that further steps must be taken to honour the agreement. Under the agreement, countries have the right to set their own targets. However, we are currently on track for a 3.0C rise, falling short of the agreement’s preferred rise of between 1.5C and 2C.

Policies on pollution, animals, energy production and conservation

The Trump administration rolled back over 100 environmental laws, fourteen of which were to be completed in his second term. 28 laws were reversed concerning air pollution and emissions across a range of sectors. 41 laws concerning drilling, infrastructure and animal conservation were altered to favour commercial activity, a further 29 de-regulating pollution of water supplies and standards around toxic substances and waste management. 

Specifically, on the issue of pollution, Trump wanted weakened regulations on industry-related toxins such as mercury, methane and uranium. And was happy to allow air quality to become poorer in order to assist the industry. Biden wanted regulations restored on water treatment and to prosecute companies not managing industry pollution associated with those materials. On animals, Trump wants to weaken the endangered species act and to reduce regulations around hunting, fishing and animal welfare. Biden supported them. 

And the same opposite focuses apply when it comes to energy production and conservation, Trump wanting more fossil fuel production, including coal, with wetlands and protected land statuses reduced in order for logging and drilling to occur across the country. Biden on the other hand wanted to ban any new oil and gas permits on public lands, funding renewable energy in its place, with more protections put in place to cover at least 30% of the United States.

Biden vs. Trump climate change

Fossil fuels / Agency enforcement 

Two key policy areas that really show the opposing views and are super important for climate change to be sorted are around fossil fuel production, and how regulation is enacted, then enforced by government agencies. On fossil fuel production, Trump favoured increasing production, wanting 2 access pipelines to be opened, more coal production and sought to secure more offshore oil and gas drilling, settling on a 78-million acre oil lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico. During his term the U.S became the biggest oil producer, surpassing Saudi Arabia and Russia. 

Biden sought to close both access pipelines, end central subsidies to the oil industry, will end permits for new oil and gas drilling on public lands and will stop all oil and gas development in the arctic. He also wants to end all coal production and work with the top 20 economies to do the same. On the matter of agencies, the Trump administration either disbanded, cut funding or attempted to alter how agencies managed procedures. This meant an Agency like the EPA, lost a large amount of staffing and scaled back protections of wetlands, streams and marshes. Attempts were made to stop California from enforcing air pollution from car emissions. 

Aside from the $2 billion promised, Biden wants to create 1 million jobs in the auto industry, focused on electric car production. He wants to build 1.5 million sustainable homes, with energy upgrades in 4 million buildings. 

Having been inaugurated, Biden seems sure to deliver on that climate change pledge 

“and a third I’m going to sign, that’s what we do while you’re all here is the commitment I made that we’re going to rejoin the Paris climate accord. “ 

“Former treasury secretary Hank Paulson, of course, was a Treasury secretary in a Republican administration but he praised the decision to rejoin the agreement saying that climate change is the most certain threat to our planet, our people and their livelihoods.

He says that he commends the administration for leadership and wisdom in making climate change a priority for his administration. So certainly not all of the responses from the other side of the aisle on the climate issues have been negative. “ 

Joe Biden kicked off his proceedings with 17 executive moves just hours after his inauguration.  Two of those executive orders focused on the environment. He started by rejoining the Paris climate change agreement. Biden also revoked the permit granted for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline and instructed all executive agencies to review all previous executive actions (the 100 law changes) that were damaging to the environment. 

Biden Inaugeration

What those executive orders and environmental policies might look like? 

The United Nations could accept U.S membership in the international pledge within 30 days, though there will be a rift between the U.S and many countries agreeing on what it’s new carbon emissions reductions should be. The Keystone XL pipeline was designed to carry oil from the tar sands of Canada’s Alberta province to U.S refineries, the order now stopping oil and gas leasing in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It’s also expected that 70% of all new energy generation in the states will come from renewable sources. 

Thankfully, and despite the U.S leaving the Paris Agreement, the U.S utility sector has been making some dramatic moves towards clean energy over the last four years. Many were already committed to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. If Joe Biden enacts the $2 trillion ambition for clean energy and infrastructure this could be fast-tracked by up to 15 years. The investment helping to invest in new technologies, long-duration energy storage, small modular nuclear reactors and green hydrogen and methane to fuel gas peaker plants. 

So, Biden pretty much started his inauguration as he said he would. What will that look like halfway into his first 100 days. . .

Build back better - Joe Biden

It seems that Biden is on his way to fulfilling his election promises. By his 50th day in office, the AP reported that he has achieved 16 out of 61 pledges he had made, with the majority in progress. 2 of those promises related to the environment, with no surprises, the U.S having rejoined the Paris Climate Accord, and signing of executive actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. With 5 other pledges now in progress: 

1) Infrastructure investment 

A $2 trillion ‘build back better’ plan which will make infrastructure investments into energy-efficient and carbon-neutral buildings, water, transportation and energy supply. His team is working with members of Congress on the bill. 

2) Culling the emissions of HFC’s (hydrofluorocarbons) – Montreal Protocol 

These are a group of industrial chemicals mainly used for cooling and refrigeration, inventing to replace o-zone damaging CFCs in the 70’s and 80’s. And whilst they are less damaging to the O-Zone, if industry can reduce the use of the chemical, then this will reduce greenhouse gas. Whence the need for the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol. 

3) Executive order – Conserve 30% of America’s lands and waters by 2030 

Biden signed an executive order after taking office which kickstarts a review of all boundary lines around national parks and monuments and is halting oil and gas development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The review will find the number of protected areas expanded. 

4) Convene a Climate World Summit 

Another meeting of politicians, sigh, but this one might have some legs. Planned to occur between the 22-23rd April, the summit, led by John Kerry, is meeting exclusively with 20 nations that kick out 81% of all world greenhouse gas emissions. The U.S will use its influence to secure commitments and similar levels of investment into green infrastructure and changes in the industry. 

5) Global emission reductions – By air and sea 

The Biden administration, led by John Kerry, is putting in place stringent targets to deliver a ‘deep decarbonization’ of the aviation and shopping sectors. For the U.S to achieve a reduction in gas emissions by 50-85%, achieving its target for the Paris Agreement, it’ll need to deal with its transport sector which accounts for 28% of all it’s emissions. 

Triumphant Joe Biden

The controversy around the election 

Sadly, the climate change argument and quite a lot of policy discussion have been overshadowed by controversy,  mainly due to Trump’s false claims of fraudulent activity occurring after he lost the election. The cost – Biden’s main challenge will be to heal divisions whilst also delivering the law and acts now needed to support his climate change agenda. 

Based solely on policy, there was only one candidate we hoped would be elected. It was a tragedy to witness the U.S leave the Paris agreement in 2016, having the support of this economic powerhouse critical to dealing with North America and the world’s carbon footprint. With the U.S back in the agreement and with a President so actively committed to building a Green American economy by 2035, we have a fantastic chance of dealing with climate change, decisively. 

Better. Though some within the Republican party deny climate change, there is a strong popular agreement, with many younger republicans wanting action and willing to cross the floor to support a green economy.  So whilst many environmentalists have had a tough 4 years, the future is exciting for us all. 

All we’ll leave you with a short interview with 3 of the former presidents – God bless America. 

 

NBC – Former Presidents ask Americans to work together for a better future 

“Well good evening America. Obviously, there was a personal element to see my former vice president become the 46th president. To see Kamala Harris as our first woman vice president but more broadly I think inaugurations signal a tradition of a peaceful transfer of power that is over two centuries old.  I think the fact that the three of us are standing here talking about a peaceful transfer of power speaks to the institutional integrity of our country. 

So this is an unusual thing. We are both trying to come back to normalcy to deal with totally abnormal challenges. And do what we do best which is try to make a more perfect union. it’s an exciting time. We’ve gotta not just listen to folks we agree with but listen to folks we don’t. One of my fondest memories of the inauguration was the grace and generosity that President Bush showed me and Laura Bush showed Michelle.”  

‘There’s no problem they can’t solve when we’re working together’  

“It was a reminder that we can have fierce disagreements and yet recognize each other’s common humanity. That as Americans we have more in common than what separates us. I think if Americans would love their neighbour as they look they would like to be loved themselves then a lot of the division in our society would end. 

That’s what this means.  It’s a new beginning and everybody needs to get off their high horse and reach out to their friends and neighbours. To try to make it possible if in fact, as George said,  we’re looking for what binds us together. The American people are strong. They’re tough. They can get through hardship and there’s no problem they can’t solve when we’re working together.  I think that was the theme of Joe’s inaugural speech and iI think all of us discovered that we’re at our best when we’re all moving in the same direction. America is a generous country with people with great hearts. All three of us are lucky to be the president of this country

Mr president –  I’m pulling for your success. Your success is our country’s success and god bless you. I’m glad you’re there and I wish you well you have spoken for us today. Now you will lead us and we’re ready to march with you. Good luck. God bless Joe. I’m proud of you. 

You and Kamala need to know that you’ve got all of us here rooting for your success keeping you in our prayers. We will be available in any ways that we can as citizens to help you guide our country forward. We wish you godspeed. “ 

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