As the last states officially declare their results of the US presidential election, and the outcome increasingly points to Biden’s victory, America’s new president-elect comes closer and closer to his inauguration in January of next year.
The results of the election have held the attention of international news over the past couple of weeks, as both America and the world have anxiously awaited the outcome which will determine the next four years of the upcoming presidential term. This outcome of the US election will have tremendous repercussions not only for these next four years, but also for the long-term and global future. It will dictate the path that the world will take regarding a number of issues, not least the problem of the climate crisis.
To give you some context, a 2018 special report by the IPCC, or The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, states that “under emissions in line with current pledges under the Paris Agreement […], global warming is expected to surpass 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels [and that] increased action would need to achieve net zero CO2 emissions in less than 15 years. Even if this is achieved, temperatures would only be expected to remain below the 1.5°C threshold if the actual geophysical response ends up being towards the low end of the currently estimated uncertainty range […] Limiting warming to 1.5°C implies reaching net zero CO2 emissions globally around 2050.”
According to the science and research supporting this report at the time of its publication, the world is currently facing two impending deadlines:
2030. Global CO2 emissions must be significantly reduced by this date in comparison to global emissions at the time of publication (2018).
2050. Global net zero CO2 emissions must be reached by the middle of the century.
This is roughly the time frame in which the Paris Agreement finds its aim of limiting “the [global] temperature increase […] to 1.5 degrees Celsius” (UNFCCC). Bear in mind, however, that these are targets which will not be easily achievable or attainable, and that they require continued and persistent international cooperation and commitment. They are extremely ambitious but are equally instrumental and indispensable in the building of a sustainable future. Thus this research, alongside other recent and upcoming IPCC reports, is a backdrop against which world leaders should be developing and following national and international climate goals and actions.
If we now turn back to the US context, we can consider the following questions. What has Biden promised to do in order to fight the climate crisis? Will his government place enough emphasis on and commit to solving global climate issues in order to push both America and the world into a more sustainable and equitable future? Will these actions be sufficient in order to affect enough change by the 2030 and 2050 targets?
With all this in mind, below are some of the goals highlighted in ‘The Biden Plan‘ in relation to the climate crisis:
“Recommit to the Paris Agreement.”
“Ensure the U.S. achieves a 100% clean energy economy and reaches net-zero emissions no later than 2050.”
“Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation – the fastest growing source of U.S. climate pollution – by preserving and implementing the existing Clean Air Act. [..] Protect biodiversity, slowing extinction rates and helping leverage natural climate solutions by conserving 30% of America’s lands and waters by 2030. [..] Make a historic investment in energy and climate research and innovation, as well as clean and resilient infrastructure and communities. [..] Make future bilateral U.S.-China agreements on carbon mitigation. [..] Demand a worldwide ban on fossil fuel subsidies. [..] Create a Clean Energy Export and Climate Investment Initiative.”
“Make climate change a core national security priority.”
“Ensure that communities harmed by climate change and pollution are the first to benefit from the Clean Economy Revolution.”
The climate crisis remains an issue which needs to be addressed at this very moment. The science suggests, as it has been suggesting for decades, that we do not have the luxury of deciding whether we want to prioritise an international effort towards fighting the climate crisis. We have an obligation to act now. 2030 is only ten years from now. And this ten years is becoming shorter and shorter as we discover more factors contributing to rising global carbon dioxide emissions. The Climate Clock, as of 14th November 2020, gives us “7 years and 47 days” in which to “achieve zero emissions”. We need everybody involved in finding and implementing equitable and sustainable solutions, from the President of the United States of America to the reader of this article.
The clock is ticking and we can only hope that international politics arrives in time to be of any value.
Image taken by Faye Wilson.