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How to judge Biden's climate promise

How to judge Biden’s climate promise

On April 22nd, US President Joe Biden Advertise A big new commitment to his country in return Climate change, Promising that by 2030 it will cut greenhouse gas emissions in America by 50-52 percent from 2005 levels. Is that too much? is he small? its enough? It is not easy to get an idea of ​​the matter starting with just Biden’s declaration, just as it is not easy to understand whether he will be able to turn that commitment into words, which has not been written in any US law at the moment, into specific facts.

L ‘2015 Paris Climate Agreement It states that the signatory states undertake to respect the so-called Nationally Determined Contributions (Nationally Determined Contribution), in Italian, “Specific contributions on a national basis”, which are national targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions (the cause of climate change), chosen independently and voluntarily to help keep the average global temperature increase below 2 degrees percentage .

A commitment to halve emissions from 2005 levels by 2030 is precisely the new national contribution from the United States. Comparing it with commitments made by the European Union and other countries in the world is complicated for various reasons. First and foremost, each country (or federation of states) chooses its own reference year for calculating emissions reduction. The United States chose 2005 because it was around that year that it had peaked greenhouse gas emissions. On the other hand, the European Union is committed to reducing its emissions again by 2030 55 percent of 1990 levels: Around that year, European emissions began to decline thanks to the introduction of some environmental policies and the collapse of the economies of the former communist bloc, which were greatly polluted.

Choosing the year in which the most emissions were produced (rather than the previous year, for example) as a reference year is a way of being able to declare a higher percentage, and thus present your commitment in the best light. a second Calculations made by the Rhodium Group Research InstituteIf the European Union’s promise was compared to 2005 emissions levels, the proportion declared would have been 51 percent instead of 55.

a second Global Carbon Project data, An organization that seeks to measure global greenhouse gas emissions, in 2010 the United States produced 5.698 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2).2), Major greenhouse gases, the United Kingdom 512 billion tons and the European Union (including the United Kingdom) 3.442 billion tons. Comparing all announced NDCs to emissions levels that year, it appears that the country that promised the largest percentage reduction is the United Kingdom, at 58 percent. Biden’s promise does not change much, as the EU’s promises translate into a 46 per cent reduction.

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Another comparison that can be made to judge Biden’s promise is the commitment that Barack Obama made in 2016, ahead of his successor, Donald Trump. The United States withdraws from the Paris Agreement: Obama has promised a 25-28% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2025. According to BloombergNEF, a research group of Bloomberg On zero-emissions sources of energy, Obama’s promise extended to 2030 Would lead 34% reduction from 2005 levels

So the current president has relaunched in a more ambitious way. Bill McKibben is an environmental expert and contributor to the magazine The New YorkerAnd the Notice: «Joe Biden’s strategy for the epidemic was to make contained promises and then obtain results that exceeded expectations. His administration committed to administering one hundred million doses of the vaccine in the first hundred days, but then it was able to achieve more than double the goal. It is a clever political strategy, especially since the former president did exactly the opposite on every occasion. But Biden’s new climate plan does not follow this example.

According to McKibben and other commentators, to fulfill his promise, Biden will have to make greenhouse gas emissions a priority throughout his presidency and beyond: He and Vice President Kamala Harris will have to make sure they win the next presidential election, through 2030, in order to make sure all political decisions are made of Now and even then you take the goal into consideration.

It will not be easy and precedents are not good, even before Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Agreement: In the 1990s, the Democratic Bill Clinton administration participated in the negotiations on the Kyoto Protocol, the most important international agreement in years on the Paris Agreement. Climate, but the Senate did not approve it.

The first step in Biden’s climate plan was to make it clear, in the United States and in front of the rest of the world, that he wanted to do something: through the Leaders’ Climate Summit, which was the international videoconferencing meeting that was organized recently days, he has already taken this step. The second is to persuade Congress to pass an Infrastructure Act introduced in March, which provides incentives for electric cars and power plants from renewable sources, funding for energy innovation, and emissions bans for power plants, starting in 2035.

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If passed, it would be the most important climate law in America ever, but it doesn’t necessarily pass through the Senate, with Democrats having only one vote. Several Republicans have said that Biden’s proposed climate policies are too aggressive, arguing that countries with high emissions such as China and India have not committed to reducing them anytime soon. “The president’s plan will cost families a fortune from the bills and hurt US competitiveness in the world,” said Republican Senator John Barasso from Wyoming. To counter these arguments, Biden is trying to present the energy transition as a great opportunity to create new economic development and jobs.

But even if the infrastructure law were passed, it would not be sufficient to reach the target set for 2030. According to McKibben, the biggest challenge will be opposing the interests of the major fossil fuel companies. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is trying to introduce stricter rules about pollution from cars, trucks, etc. Methane emissions (Another greenhouse gas) due to the extraction and distribution of fossil fuels: But even these rules have not yet become law and can be banned by Congress and the courts.

Regardless of the feasibility of Biden’s promise, there are those who have criticized it as insufficient for his commitment to the climate. According to a non-profit organization, Climate Action Tracker, to align with the more ambitious goal set by the Paris Agreement, which is not to exceed the average global temperature increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius, Biden said. ought to He promised emission reductions of 57-63 percent compared to 2005 levels and supports for developing countries to help them reduce their emissions.

“If you ask me whether the goal of the United States is fair and ambitious, then the criterion for answering should not be whether the Senate will accept it or not,” He said Sivan Kartha, Scientist and Member of the Stockholm Environment Institute, Al New York Times. Kartha is among my authors a study Made by various organizations that by 2030 the United States must reduce its emissions by 70 percent from 2005 levels to be “fair” for the rest of the world, given the amount of greenhouse gas emissions it has produced in history. According to Kartha, one should ask: “What can the United States do with its power and historical responsibility to create the problem?”

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For environmentalists like Katha, taking past emissions into account would be more equitable and would give lower middle income countries like India more time to make their economy more environmentally sustainable.

China, another country that started contributing significantly to greenhouse gas emissions long after the United States, did not promise to reduce emissions by 2030: that year it committed to raising emissions and promised it would come to Carbon neutrality, The situation in which the same amount of every ton of greenhouse gases that diffuse into the atmosphere is removed by 2060. It is currently the number one country in total greenhouse gas emissions, but if we take into account the emissions per population it is still much lower than the United States. On the other hand, India has yet to set a date for reaching its peak emissions.

The Biden administration’s strategy was to try to set a goal to cut emissions that, while not easy to achieve, was still politically feasible. One of the ideas behind this strategy and organizing the Leaders’ Climate Summit is to persuade other countries to follow the example of the United States.

The United States and the European Union are responsible for a quarter of current greenhouse gas emissions: Even if they manage to meet the emission reduction targets for 2030 and 2050, they will still need other countries’ contributions to achieve the true common goal of stopping warming temperatures.

In conclusion, however, it will be necessary to judge the climate policies of the countries of the world on the basis of the results obtained, and not on the basis of promises. Not only is it not certain that it will be preserved, but also because there are different ways to reduce emissions and some are better than others over time: The Obama administration, for example, has facilitated the transition from energy production by coal to that with natural gas. This would rapidly reduce carbon dioxide emissions but potentially facilitate methane emissions in the long term. Right now, one has only an idea of ​​how Biden will try to cut US emissions in half in nine years, and the bulk of it remains to be seen.