The election of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States has a lot of implications for the world, from the raging COVID-19 Pandemic to the decline in global cooperation when it comes to trade and commerce. But in all these areas, there’s more clarity awaited as to how the Biden-Harris administration will deal with these issues. Yet, the one area where there is no confusion, contention or lack of information is on President-elect Biden’s stance on Climate Change.
If there was ever a stark-contrast between incumbent President Donald Trump and Former VP Joe Biden, it was the manner in which they looked at matters pertaining to climate change and environment. While Donald Trump has been a disaster on the Climate Change front, Joe Biden does seem to recognize that confronts us if we keep going on track the way we do. The role of US is especially significant, as the country happens to be the second-largest CO2 emitter in the world, accounting for almost 15% of the world’s emission while accounting for 4% of the world’s population. Also, China happens to be the largest emitter of GHG emissions, but then it is also the largest trading partner of the US, a sort of manufacturing haven. Thus, a significant amount of China’s emission can easily be attributed to the consumerist ways of American citizens.
Historically too, the US can be discredited for much of the CO2 emissions that are adding up in the global commons. If we were to take the cumulative carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions, namely the total sum of CO₂ emissions produced from fossil fuels and cement since 1751 and is measured in tonnes. The US tops the list by far, accounting for 404.77 billion t in 2018, while India stood at 51.20 billion t in 2018. This should give an idea to the scale.
Yet, in the past four years under the aegis of President Trump, the US has not only refused to acknowledge its role in the crisis, but going to the extent of undermining global cooperation. Donald Trump’s single most significant act of defiance was to pull out the country from the Paris Accord that had been ratified by 197 countries across the world. Joe Biden, on the other hand, has been much more pragmatic and reconciliatory. He has already announced that the US under his watch would rejoin the Paris Agreement, reinstate emissions rules. He has been much more stringent, talking about his idea to publish rankings to “name and shame” countries falling behind on their climate commitments. He also stated that his administration would invest $2 trillion to confront the “grave threat”.
In the run-up to the November elections, Joe Biden had distinctly revealed his plans on the environment front and even received some flak for it. Donald Trump had repeatedly attacked Biden on the issue of fracking and coal industries, stating that Biden’s plan would be a death-knell for the fossil-fuel industry. Interestingly, Biden seemed coy when it came to talking about fracking in the final days, though he seemed to have pretty firm views when he was running for the primaries. Biden has repeatedly spoken about his plan to ensure the US achieves a 100% clean energy economy and reaches net-zero emissions no later than 2050. He has talked about the need to eliminate carbon emissions from the electric sector by 2035. This would entail significant investment for the renewable sector. He has spoken about his support for rapid innovations and using the renewable energy market as a significant job creator. He is also an ardent supporter of the EVs, and spoken about strict fuel-efficiency standards in an attempt to make purchases of all new cars and light trucks electric.
On the pollution-front, Joe Biden has plenty of ideas, but none as fundamental as his supports for phasing out single-use plastics.
There are many things that Biden would do on a national scale, like restrict oil and gas drilling on public lands and waters; block pipelines that transport fossil fuels across the country; or mobilize other nations to achieve higher carbon emissions targets. His detailed plans are here
It can’t be denied, that Biden’s ascension as the President of the United States could not have come at a more opportune time. For the past four years, the country has been deaf and dumb on issues related to climate change, resulting in a global laxity. In these years, the climate crisis has only deepened and the window to undo the damage has been shrinking at an impossibly alarming rate. The possibility of doing enough to stall the rise in global temperatures seems hopeless. Already a lot of experts have started talking about adaptation instead of mitigation. Now, when the US starts talking earnestly, with all the dollars from the Federal Reserve, suddenly the world will begin to notice.
If one of the biggest emitters in the world starts taking responsibility for its action, it can only mean good for the world. Indeed, there will be many challenges; the COVID-19 Pandemic is the biggest of them, then there’s a thing of the political will being challenged by the Republican-controlled Senate.
Nonetheless, Joe Biden’s strident stance on climate change is a welcome change, and there’s some hope that humanity will finally have a chance.
PS. Images randomly sourced from Google Images, no Copyright claimed.