Until Donald Trump took office in the United States, the long, nagging stride of John Kerry, Secretary of State to President Barack Obama, was a familiar sight at UN climate conferences, ultimately contributing to guide the Paris Agreement in 2015.
Trump’s time in office has been four years of happy environmental reversal, something Kerry now needs to help unravel. He is President Joe Biden’s special climate envoy, a new cabinet-level post.
Kerry is a 77-year-old political veteran. He won three Purple Hearts during the Vietnam War, then became an anti-war activist after returning to the United States in 1969. He fights for a cause. And he’ll need all of his powers of persuasion in the months and years to come.
On the second day of Biden’s presidency, Kerry made his first appearance in his new post at a G20 forum, saying the US is resuming global climate talks with ‘humility’ after ‘leaving the table for four lost years ”under President Trump.
“We must all act together, because today very few countries are on the path to the deep reductions needed to meet even the current targets, let alone the targets we need to avoid catastrophic damage.”
On day one, the change in White House tenure resulted in significant changes in climate policy, with the newly elected Biden ratifying the United States in the Paris Agreement and canceling the controversial project. Keystone XL Oil Pipeline.
Biden also ordered federal agencies to review over 100 environmental policies of the Trump administration and if possible quickly reverse them. From energy efficiency standards, which Trump has lowered, to the limits of national monuments, which Trump had reduced, everything is being revised.
After a presidency that mocked and science belittled, there is now a sense of urgency in the face of climate change unmatched by any previous occupant of the White House.
Congress and Republican support
But, of course, the decrees are the easier part. For lasting change that cannot be undone by future presidents, the Biden administration needs Congress by its side. And given the Democratic Party’s infallible control over the Senate, that could be tricky.
Biden has pledged to put the United States on a path to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 with an interim goal of decarbonizing the U.S. electricity sector by 2035. There are regulatory elements of his $ 2 trillion green stimulus package that will need to pass the 60-vote threshold in the Senate, so Democrats will need Republican backing to be successful.
“The challenge will be to bring Republicans on board with a clean energy infrastructure package that could systematically reduce US emissions,” Paul Bledsoe, climate adviser to former President Bill Clinton, told AFP.
Bledsoe predicted that Biden should initially try to work with his fellow Republicans to reach the 60-vote threshold required to pass most laws – although if that doesn’t work, there are processes to pass laws with a simple majority of 51 votes.
Hope for the future
Despite the challenges, there is no doubt that the time has come for renewed optimism, at least in the sense that the ranks of the effort to fight climate change are strengthening. Plus, the arrival of Biden and Kerry comes as we see a record breaking investments into clean energy with enormous employment potential.
As Kerry told the G20 forum: “An emissions-free future offers huge opportunities for business, for clean, green jobs and economic growth and, in the President’s words, for ‘build back better’ after the global economic crisis.
Overview of your environment
1. Six climate figures for a changing United States: From degrees of global warming, to the amount of carbon dioxide left in the carbon budget, to the record number of climate disasters the United States has experienced in 2020, these are the numbers the Biden administration will face in order to tackle the climate crisis head-on.
2. First cave painting discovered: A painting of pigs found in a cave in Indonesia created a new record for the oldest figurative art – images that show more than just abstractions. It is at least 45,500 years old.
3. Will a green economy help the Amazon ?: A leading scientist has warned that if economic activities such as agriculture and mining continue to take priority over a sustainable economy based on biodiversity, the hydrological cycle of the rainforest will be ‘in tatters’.
4. Discover the mysteries of butterfly flight: Using a wind tunnel and high-speed cameras, scientists have documented delicate creatures to better understand how they are able to fly with such large but ineffective wings.
The last word
Perseverance, the secret of all triumphs.