Biden Climate Act narrowly passes Senate, but its not a race runned

Never before has America put so much money into reducing global warming. With the package of climate and energy measures approved by the Senate, the US is taking a significant step towards achieving President Biden‘s climate goals. Next week, the House of Representatives still has to vote on it, but Democrats have a majority in that.

โ€œThis is a change in US policy,โ€ said Leo Meyer, former project leader of the UN Climate Panel IPCC and negotiator at the forerunners of the Paris agreement. โ€œBiden gets his way for the first time, after President Trump reversed his predecessor Obama’s climate goals.โ€

But there are still plenty of political and financial developments that can throw a spanner in the works, Meyer adds.

Halving emissions

In President Biden‘s ambitious climate goals, Americans are halving CO2 emissions by 2030 compared to 2005, bringing America close to the reduction required to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, as enshrined in the 2015 Paris Accord.

With the federal measures now adopted by the Senate, a CO2 reduction of more than 40 percent is achieved. It is expected that the remaining 10 percent emissions reduction can be achieved by measures in individual federal states, such as the relatively strict state of California in the environmental field.

The package of measures approved by the Senate by a small majority includes many subsidies and tax breaks for low-greenhouse gas technologies. This makes investments in clean energy cheaper. The stimulus measures will cost around 369 billion dollars. Wind turbines, solar panels and electric cars, among other things, receive a significant boost due to the measures.

โ€œIt’s an important decision. Also because it is a signal to the outside world,โ€ says Meyer. โ€œSeveral other countries have seen how Trump, the Republican Party, but also some Democrats have weakened US climate goals in recent years. Other countries said to America, if you do nothing, then we will do nothing. This new turn is another opportunity to motivate China, Brazil, India and the major oil countries.โ€

Last Friday, China announced that it was suspending talks with the US on climate change, a move Meyer regrets because Beijing and Washington cooperation is crucial. โ€œThat cooperation also formed the basis of the Paris agreement.โ€

Meyer points out that further US action is needed outside this major national stimulus package. โ€œEvery year, financial support is needed to encourage other countries to take more climate action, and the US, among other things, is stepping on the financial brake.โ€

The package of climate measures contains remarkably few bans. The exception is methane emissions, which will be curtailed after 2024. Incidentally, the space that the US federal government has to limit CO2 emissions has been drastically curtailed by the Supreme Court. In June, the judges decided that the country‘s most important environmental law, the Clean Air Act, should not be used to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

Climate activists are disappointed that many concessions were made to the fossil fuel industry in the Senate negotiations. Gas and oil drilling continues, coal and gas plants can continue to operate, and the construction of new fossil fuel pipelines remains possible. โ€œThis is partly due to the war in Ukraine,โ€ says Meyer. โ€œFossil fuel prices are high. The incentive to extract more oil and gas is strong. That does not help to achieve the climate goals.โ€

Race against the clock

The climate scientist considers it uncertain whether America meets Biden’s climate goals. โ€œThat is not due to the technology and the costs. The resistance is mainly political and psychological. It‘s a race against time. A Republican majority is expected in the upcoming Senate elections and perhaps a Republican president afterwards. They could reverse much of what is now agreed. It’s not a run.โ€

Overall, Meyer is positive about the news from the US. โ€œAmerica accounts for 12 percent of the world‘s greenhouse gas emissions. In all the delay in achieving the Paris goals, America plays a major role. Biden’s plans, if they go ahead, are a cautious game changer.โ€