As Biden is set to take office as the next US president, the 117th Congress is unlikely to pass major legislation dealing with the skew of crises it faces at home, including progressive policies on accelerated climate change. At the global stage, Biden’s administration will take notes from his preceding president and revive multilateralism and the global climate change narrative indeed, which remains an urgent need of the hour.
Even before his election as president, Biden promised to re-join the historic Paris Climate Agreement of 2015 which President Trump had opted to retreat from. Biden’s plan to tackle accelerated climate change has been labeled as the most ambitious of any former US president’s. He’s not the only one advocating for the climate crisis. New York’s Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez put forward a proposal called the “New Green Deal”, to eliminate green-house gases (GHG) from over a decade.
Biden has further proposed to make US electricity production carbon-free by 2035 and also to have the country achieve net zero emissions by 2035. Once in office, he aims to spend around $2 trillion during his tenure to drive down emissions by upgrading millions of buildings to make them more energy-efficient.
Climate change advocates rejoice at Biden’s presidential success but are also quietly absorbing the blow of possible strong Republican control of the US Senate which can ultimately kneecap efforts to mitigate ecological disruption. Previously, the Senate blocked crucial pro-climate change friendly bills on numerous occasions while fossil fuel companies claimed about $5.8 billion as “pandemic assistance”.
Climate change denial from Republicans and lobby groups operating at state level is a key obstacle to American and global efforts to fight accelerated climate change. Republican senators were happy to appease big oil giants, at the expense of environmental degradation. In 2015, ExxonMobil gave up to $2.3 million to members of Congress and a corporate lobbying group that rejected climate change.
Officials from Obama’s time are aware of the predicaments the new Biden administration brings with it. Ernest Moniz, Obama’s former energy secretary, states that “legislation passed with support from both parties tends to be the best way to make durable change — and that it is still worth trying”. For any domestic climate change policy to be successful, America’s Congress must be on the same page. Once climate change policies at home will thrive, the global narrative would inevitably gain momentum.
The US elections of 2020 were more fought on domestic fronts rather than foreign policy. However, in order to revive the global narrative Biden’s climate change policies at home should become more mainstream. The divide on such a crucial debate will be a tough challenge for the new administration.
The US rejoining the Paris agreement is a highly anticipated sight for environmentalists indeed. Why is the historic agreement crucial for tackling ecological disruption? The target of lowering the global temperature by 1.5 degree Celsius target could prevent vulnerable island states from sinking. It could ensure millions of people are safe from extreme weather disasters. Moreover, it would reduce chances of an ice-free Arctic in the summer time, something witnessed only this year. But the Paris Agreement is not the only solution for tackling accelerated climate change. Today’s world requires a new type of international collaboration where all countries are united in a common framework and are actively involved.
Melting glaciers, rising sea levels, intensifying droughts, chronic heat waves and more frequently occurring natural disasters are clear manifestations of accelerated climate change. All eyes on Biden’s upcoming administration now.