Response to climate change is at the heart of President Biden’s plan to restore American leadership through example. For this reason, one of his first actions as president was to sign an executive order returning to the Paris agreement on climate change. The Biden administration has set a goal of cutting carbon emissions in half by 2030 and carbon emissions in the electricity generation sector to zero by 2035. The goal to achieve carbon neutrality, which effectively reduces carbon emissions by absorbing as much carbon as one produces, is set for 2050. President Biden announced this objective to the international community at the 26th Conference of the Parties last November, urging each country to act. It is in stark contrast to his predecessor, Donald Trump, who went beyond being negligent and headed backward on climate change, taking the extraordinary stance of withdrawing from the Paris Agreement.
Nevertheless, one after another of President Biden’s plans to restore leadership in response to climate change have been stymied. The Supreme Court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency has no power to limit carbon emissions from coal power plants across the country. Instead, states have the authority to act on carbon emissions absent new federal legislation by Congress. The Biden administration’s goal of zero emissions by 2035 has suffered as plans to enforce carbon emission restriction on coal power plants have been shattered.
Several climate-related bills are on the verge of collapse because Sen. Joe Manchin, the voice of opposition within the majority Democratic Party, has not changed his intention to oppose the bills, one of which includes a $300 billion budget to expand renewable energy production.* As a result, the largest single investment in renewable energy in U.S. history is at risk of being rejected or cut back. President Biden is moving to circumvent the legislative impasse by declaring a national emergency, but there are bound to be restrictions. This raises concerns that the U.S. could attend the COP27 meeting in November empty-handed.
The fact that the United States, the world’s second-largest emitter of carbon, has failed to set an example for climate change response is not an issue concerning the U.S. alone. The damage from climate change does not discriminate across borders, and the loss of U.S. leadership makes it difficult to cope with the global crisis together at a time when the world relies on public goods provided by the U.S. If the U.S. does not set an example, the pressure felt by the “climate villains” will also weaken. This is the reason why we are calling on an unpopular U.S. president with an approval rating of 30% to stay strong!
*Editor’s note: Sen. Joe Manchin reversed his position on key climate and tax provisions of the Democratic spending bill and gave it his support on July 29, after this editorial was originally published.
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