By Adam Walter
The recent inauguration of President elect Joe Biden has been met with much positivity, however, recently this has been shrouded in disgruntlement and division. This has meant less reflection on the aims of the incoming President and more focus on the antics of outgoing President, Donald Trump. What role will the President elect play in the fight to reverse the impacts of climate change?
Biden has committed to re-joining the Paris Accord from which Trump withdrew America. The legally binding treaty aims to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The agreement has also seen countries commit to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible to achieve a climate neutral world by mid-century. America annually contributes the most carbon emissions on a per-person basis globally. This makes America the second largest producer of CO2 after China. The renewal of American involvement in the Paris Accord appears to be a move by Biden to continue the work and promises of Barack Obama. Former President Obama committed to reducing US emissions by 28%, something Biden intends to continue. Mr Biden will likely commit to a clean energy goal to be achieved by 2035 and will indicate the budget for this in February. This marks a change from the Trump administration, within which no target had been set for net-zero gas emissions.
As of 2018, the US produced 6.7 billion metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gas (GHG). The single largest source of this is transportation and the US level output of these harmful gasses was increased under Donald Trump. This was due to more emphasis on the exportation of crude oil and gas, making the US the largest exporter of both. This is something that Biden will look to change, hoping to spend $2 trillion over four years to drive down emissions. Furthermore, he has committed to upgrading over four million buildings as a means of increasing energy efficiency. He also aims to spend more on combatting public transport emissions and increase the trading of cleaner cars. President Biden has also committed to reducing fracking on federal land, lessening chemical injection into rocks as a means of freeing up oil and gas. This will reduce fracking within the US by almost 10%. These actions were mentioned often by Biden during his campaign and many US citizens are behind these commitments.
It is not only civilians that recognise and approve of Biden’s commitment to grappling with climate change. Those within US politics have also had positive things to say regarding the new regime. Andrew Light, a former climate official in the Obama administration, says
"There will be a big push on electric vehicles (…) efficient buildings (…) and doing a lot of nature-based solutions on climate change”. Moreover, Former chief of staff for Bill Clinton, John Podesta, has claimed that Biden has been “building a team of climate champions across the government.” Podesta went on to say that Biden has shaped his cabinet and filled it with “climate activists”. This marks a transition from the previous regime and illustrates the intent of the Democrat leader to face the issue head on. The long and crucial fight against climate change appears to be shifting from being the role of individuals to the role of a government and the nation.