Biden at the COP27 UN climate talks said the US is doing its part. Is that enough?

President Joe Biden on Friday said international climate negotiators in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, that the US is backing up its promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with action and, importantly, with money.

“We are racing forward to do our part to prevent it the climate of hell,” Biden said. “We’re not ignoring the harbingers that are already here.”

At the meeting, known as COP27, Biden announced recently funding initiatives and partnerships including $100 million for global adaptation to climate change, $150 million for disaster emergency response across Africa, and $250 million for clean energy investment support in Egypt.

The US, as a wealthy country, the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in history, and currently the second largest source of emissions in the world, plays an outstanding role in this climate meeting. Many other governments are following the US lead in their own ambitions.

And while Biden has promised more support, analysts say it’s still not commensurate with the share of the U.S. contribution to climate change.

However, the US is not the only major player at COP27, and this year, the leaders of China and India, the largest and third largest respectively, did not attend the event. Negotiators also have to contend with new hurdles for climate action. The meeting comes in the middle of the conflict with the owner raising energy prices and causing high inflation rates all over the world. “Against this backdrop, it is more important than ever that we redouble our climate commitment,” Biden said.

For countries that remain zero on climate change after years of disasters made worse by rising temperatures, the concern is not just money, but justice. Developing countries want to add the most to the rise in average temperatures to compensate for those who contribute less but are now facing rising sea levels and more extreme weather. Some are calling for refit. So putting more money on the table will be essential to get every country to stop its contribution to climate change and limit warming.

In next week’s climate talks in Egypt, the question of responsibility for losses and climate justice is likely to remain a contentious issue in the negotiations. It is not yet clear whether other countries will be inspired by the US to raise their climate change commitments. And while much action and money have been promised, the problem is still dire.

US climate change action is stronger than ever. the economy can still derail them.

Biden is still in the process of rebuilding trust with other countries since the Trump administration withdrew from international cooperation on climate change. One of President Biden’s first acts in office was to rejoin the Paris climate agreement after his predecessor resigned. “I’m sorry we ever got out of the deal,” he told the envoy in Egypt.

Since then, with executive action and legislation, Biden has advanced several key climate change policies. US set a new tougher target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions: a reduction of 50 to 52 percent relative to the 2005 level by 2030.

To achieve this goal, the administration is targeting powerful greenhouse gases such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). In October, Biden signed The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocolwhich commits the US to phasing out the use of these chemicals, often used as refrigerants.

Using executive authority, Biden has also ordered government agencies to account climate risk in contracts and in finance. He imposed a new clean energy and energy efficiency purchasing requirements for the government while setting new targets for clean vehicle and ecosystem conservation.

Not long before biden Biden, which The Environmental Protection Agency announced stronger standards to limit emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. The regulation would reduce methane emissions 87 percent below 2005 levels from regulated sources by 2030, according to the EPA.

The US has also passed major climate legislation. The 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law allocated billions of dollars to clean energy projects, including $7.5 billion for electric vehicle chargers, $39 billion for public transportation, and $65 billion to improve the power grid to better deliver renewable energy and resist disasters like wildfires.

The Inflation Reduction Act, which Biden signed this summer and called “the biggest, most important climate bill in our country’s history,” contains $369 billion to pay for EV tax credits, renewable energy, and battery manufacturing. This law is expected to reduce US greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

So Biden arrived in Egypt with a stronger climate résumé than he did at the last climate meeting Glasgow, Scotland. “The United States government is putting our money where our mouth is,” Biden said.

But global greenhouse gas emissions are poised to rise again this year. They must come down quickly to meet the goalposts of the Paris climate agreement, keeping the rise in global average temperatures to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F) this century. US emissions have fallen, but not enough.

Chart showing US Greenhouse gas emissions over time

US greenhouse gas emissions are not declining fast enough to meet its climate goals.
Environmental Protection Agency

Inflation, supply chain disruptions, high energy prices, or recessions can further disrupt efforts to do so again. Congress remains an obstacle as well. Even with Democratic control over the past two years, Biden has seen much of his climate agenda watered down. If the balance of power shifts from the Democrats, Biden will have more options to reduce emissions.

Finance is essential to solving climate change, but the US still falls short of its obligations to other countries

At the 2009 climate conference in Copenhagen, rich countries pledged to contribute $100 billion per year by 2020 to a fund that would help less wealthy countries clean energy and adapt to climate change. The amount each country contributes is decided by its share of historical greenhouse gas emissions, or “fair share”.

But it is money never materialized. Last year, Biden promised more than $11 billion in international climate finance by 2024, but Congress only provided $ 1 billion.

This year, wealthy nations are under more pressure to fulfill those commitments, said Gaia Larsen, director of climate finance access and deployment at the World Resources Institute, a Washington, DC-based think tank. In some cases, the financing conversation has revolved around the idea of ​​loss and damage – helping countries pay for rebuilding after climate disasters.

“The basic concept is asking who is going to pay for what is lost,” Larsen said. Developing countries — Pakistan, for example, are experiencing terrible flood earlier this year – responsible for far less emissions than developed countries but experiencing an outsized climate impact. “These countries are not responsible for the problems they face. So it is at least a moral obligation to contribute to helping them.

A recent analysis from CarbonBrief shows that the United States, like many other developed countries, is far behind on its share of climate financing. its shortfall matches its outsized impact; The U.S. must pay $40 billion toward the $100 billion target, but will only contribute $8 billion in 2020, the most recent year for which data is available.

When former President Trump pulled the country out of a major climate agreement, other developed countries took the lead in climate financing in the hope that the United States would step in later in the year. The US’s new climate commitment closes some of these gaps, but Congress still needs to provide more money. Some countries, such as Germany, France, and Japan, have even given more from their fair share of funds.

Biden said the U.S. could do more, saying that helping other countries clean energy is a pillar of the U.S. response to climate change. “Good climate policy is good economic policy,” Biden said. “If countries can finance coal in developing countries, there’s no reason we can’t finance clean energy in developing countries.”

He also stressed that the status quo was untenable. Global dependence on fossil fuels allows countries like Russia to hold the global economy hostage, Biden said, and clean energy will not only prevent similar energy shocks in the future but will help the world avoid climate catastrophe.

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