“ Climate change is an existential threat and the biggest problem facing humanity.” Thats what Joe Biden said right before he was elected 46th President of the United States. Biden calls combating climate change a “top priority”. He will rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement on the first day of his presidency.
But what else do we know about Bidens climate ambitions? This summer, he presented a plan to invest some two trillion (2000 billion) dollars in renewable energy and greening. Electricity generation should be CO2 neutral by 2035. By 2050, the whole country must be climate-neutral.
American climate journalist David Roberts calls Bidens plan “the most ambitious ever proposed by a president (skcandidate)”. “Of course, we must immediately say that it is insufficient. But it goes beyond what has ever been tried in American politics.”
Climate scientist Heleen de Coninck, professor of TU Eindhoven, is also impressed. “BIDENs plans sometimes go beyond the EUs plans. For example, he talks about negative emission technology, (where CO2 is removed from the atmosphere instead of preventing CO2 emissions, red). You dont hear the EU about that yet.”
Whether Biden can achieve its climate plans depends on who gets the majority in the Senate. “If that is the Republicans – and it seems like it now – the chance of cooperation around new legislation is virtually zero,” says Roberts.
But President Biden wont be powerless. Through executive orders, presidential orders, he can still achieve what is necessary. “This allows him to immediately stop leasing public land for oil and gas extraction.” Biden can also reverse many measures taken by President Donald Trump.
According to the Washington Post, under Trump, at least 125 environmental safeguards disappeared into the trash. At the same time, the left wing of the Democratic Party will put pressure on Biden to do more. “President Trump has been a disaster for the climate.“, explains climate activist John Paul Mejia of the Sunrise Movement, an organization that mobilises young people to stop the climate crisis.
Mejia is relieved that Biden won. “He wasnt the perfect candidate. But at least we can work with Biden. With millions of young people, we are ready to make his presidency the most progressive since Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal.”
According to climate journalist Roberts, lobbying clubs such as the Sunrise Movement have ensured that Biden has moved to the left when it comes to climate change. Its a matter of political calculation. “Climate change wasnt a theme Biden had a lot to do with.” According to Roberts, Biden understood that a Democratic presidential candidate can no longer come up with a weak climate plan.
Roberts: “He has embraced the theme. The support of climate activists was important. That unity in the Democratic Party was essential for high turnout and ultimately for his election victory.”
Difference for the world
After China, the US still emits most greenhouse gases. The Climate Action Tracker estimates that Bidens climate agenda – if implemented – could ultimately give 0.1 degree global warming.
Climate scientist De Coninck: “That doesnt sound like much. But the difference between 1.5 and 2.0 degrees warming is already the difference between whether or not coral reefs completely die. All in all, I think Bidens election will make a difference for the world.”