Climate Change: Hope That the US Will Become a Catalyst

The climate summit organized by the White House for Thursday and Friday is a test for Biden’s presidency, both for American commitments to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and for the U.S. to create a new dynamic in order to combat global warming.

The climate summit organized by the White House on Thursday and Friday, which brings together 40 countries, the greatest polluters among them, cannot just be a party to ease consciences. Since the Paris Agreement in 2015, the planet has been on a troubling trajectory. Carbon emissions continue to rise, and risk causing irreversible effects.

Joe Biden’s goal is clear: He wants to keep a campaign promise and once again make the United States a power capable of exerting global influence. With this in mind, his climate initiative is one of the most significant acts of his early presidency. The task remains perilous. Countries around the world are focused on restarting economies hit by the pandemic. Biden himself has to restore his country’s image, damaged by the disastrous anti-climate policies of his predecessor, Donald Trump. He is actively working toward this goal.


Biden placed competent people in the Environmental Protection Agency. He has presented an investment plan for infrastructure which gives renewable energies pride of place. He has stopped the construction of a pipeline designed to transport oil from the tar sands in Canada to the United States. For Europeans, it is a relief to see an ally come to their senses and rejoin the Paris Agreement.

As the second largest polluter after China, the United States could play the role of catalyst in a global movement. That is what Barack Obama did in 2014-2015. Faced with a crushing defeat at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in 2009, he learned his lesson. It took a credible national plan for the reduction of greenhouse gases and negotiation with China ahead of time. The cooperation between Biden and Xi Jinping in 2014 changed the dynamic of the U.N. conference in Paris and helped to overcome strong reluctance by countries like India. Now, United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry is conducting this exercise again, and is committed to cooperating with his Chinese counterpart.

Obstacle Course

But there are more than a few hurdles. There is no way to know that whoever sits in the Oval Office in 2025 won’t dismantle the current president’s climate policy. This uncertainty is detrimental to long-term commitments. The new cooperation with Beijing is to be welcomed, but it is very fragile in light of the growing animosity that characterizes the Chinese-American relationship.

As for domestic plans, the Democratic president should set ambitious but realistic goals. At the end of the week, he is set to announce a 50% reduction in carbon emissions in the U.S. by 2030. In Congress, however, he should get ready to face a formidable opponent: the strong oil and gas lobbies.

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