Conservation-minded voters rejoiced when the final presidential count came down in favor of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. But those old enough to remember Bill Clinton’s promise of healthcare for all within 100 days know well that despite a candidate’s intentions, barriers between campaign platforms and reality almost always arise. In 2021, we’ll start to see how much of the far-reaching Biden/Harris climate plan materializes.
“It won’t be as ambitious, no two ways about it,” Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, told NPR. A Democrat-controlled Congress would be extremely handy in making Biden’s dream of a carbon-neutral U.S. by 2050 come true. However, two Senate runoff races in Georgia will determine the balance of Congress, and they don’t happen until January.
President Donald Trump has reversed many of Barack Obama’s climate advances. Biden will probably rollback those rollbacks as soon as possible. These include things like loosening restrictions on methane emissions and fuel efficiency, delisting endangered species and making it easier for federal agencies to get approval for building energy and transportation infrastructure without following the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) guidelines. Biden already said he’d stop leasing new oil and gas rights on federal water and land. Environmentalists will be watching closely for his follow-through.
Biden’s campaign promised to promote unity. If he manages to bring Democrats and Republicans together enough to have a somewhat cohesive country, then maybe they can expend more energy on useful climate measures and less on name calling and aggressive posturing. Then, if Biden can put the “united” back into the United States, maybe the country can get back to being a world leader in the World Health Organization, the Paris Agreement and other important collaborations that work for the betterment of the whole planet.
The president-elect’s plan for a $1.7 trillion post-pandemic green recovery aims to reduce U.S. emissions by about 75 gigatons over the next three decades. This would be a sufficient reduction to avoid a 0.1°C temperature rise by 2100, according to Climate Tracker.
“This looks like an historic tipping point: with Biden’s election, China, the U.S., the EU, Japan, South Korea — two-thirds of the world economy and over 50% of global greenhouse gas emissions — have net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century commitments,” said Bill Hare of Climate Analytics, according to the Guardian. “These commitments are very close, if not within, 1.5C-consistent pathways for this set of countries and for the first time ever puts the Paris agreement’s 1.5C limit within striking distance.”
Let’s hope politicians of every stripe can put their differences aside long enough to save the human race from self-destruction.
Image via Patrick Campanale