US President Joe Biden has delivered his first speech to Congress, an event that marked his first 100 days in office. During this time, one of Biden's decisive but ambitious decisions was to bring the US back to the Paris Climate Agreement, to lead the fight against climate change.
Immediately after taking office, Biden signed an executive decree bringing the US back into the Paris Agreement to combat climate change and quickly appointed former Secretary of State John Kerry as Special Presidential Envoy for Climate. In order to carry out his policy of putting the US at the forefront in the fight against climate change, Biden made a series of ground-breaking decisions, to reverse those of his predecessor.
The first international conference Biden hosted was on the topic of climate change. Affirming the US' determination to take the lead in solving the current urgent climate change issue, Biden called on world leaders to accelerate plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The White House owner also made a commitment that by 2030, the US will cut its emissions by 50-52% compared to 2005 levels, double the commitment made by former President Barack Obama when signing the 2015 Paris Agreement.
The world has made significant progress in addressing climate change through new commitments made at the US-initiated virtual Leaders Summit on Climate. Japan and Canada set new targets to reduce their carbon emissions by 2030, which will see Japan reducing its emissions by at least 46% from 2013 and Canada by 40-45% , as compared with 2005 levels. The US vowed to join the global effort towards the 2050 goal of achieving neutral emissions in the sea-freight sector.
Brazil committed to working with other countries to achieve their carbon neutral goals by 2050, while the Republic of Korea announced that it will end financial support for coal plants abroad. With the newly announced emission reduction targets, more than half of the world’s economies have now committed to speeding up their action to curb the rise in the Earth’s temperature by 1.5C compared to the pre-industrial period.
However, the problem which the world must address urgently is the realisation of commitments. Biden announced that the US will double its aid to help developing countries respond to climate change. The White House said the US is aiming for ambitious but feasible goals in providing aid to developing countries due to the urgency of the climate change crisis and to compensate for a decline in funding under the administration of former President Donal Trump.
To this end, the White House pledged to triple funding for climate change adaptation by 2024, with the emphasis on current climate change adjustments. US agencies will also coordinate with development partners to prioritise climate issues in investment projects, expand technical assistance and increase funding for resilience and adaptation efforts. The US will work with Saudi Arabia and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to try to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the global freight industry, which generates one billion tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, the equivalent of Germany’s annual emissions.
The commitment to fight climate change the US and other countries have made increases the hope of meeting emissions reduction goals. However, there are still many challenges as the new commitments are considered ambitious, including the fact that countries have made many attempts but the distance between words and action is often long.
Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison said his country was on a roadmap to meet the commitments contained the Paris Agreement on climate change, but did not commit to a timeframe specifically to neutralise emissions to zero. Currently, Australia still maintains the same target of bringing emissions down 26-28%, compared with the levels of 2005, by 2030. This figure only accounts for 50% compared to the ambitious goals set out by Biden. China, the world’s leading emitter of greenhouse gases, said it will take more time to reduce its emissions.
The fact that the US, the largest economy and the second largest emitter in the world, officially re-joined the Paris Agreement with a pioneering attitude has created a strong impetus for other countries to join hands and deal with global warming. However, in order to realise the set goals, apart from the political will of governments, coordination is needed to turn commitments into action. This is not an easy problem because one can’t make bricks without straw, especially in the context that budgets directed towards the fight against climate change have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
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