Climate Action

President Biden at COP27: Promises and Takeaways

The 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) ended on November 18, following two weeks of world leaders and policy makers convening in Sharm El Sheik to present solutions and draft agreements to address the effects of climate change. Several major agreements came out of the conference, most notably a “loss and damage” fund that would offer financial relief to nations most severely affected by extreme weather events.

Quotes and Promises

President Biden brought up several points in his 20 minute speech on November 11 in the effort to gain the favor of the UN audience. He reflected on his nearly two years in office, claiming he “had led with a bold agenda to address the climate crisis.” This is reflected in his first few months in office, undoing much of the deregulatory damage and protected land usage the previous administration had carried out.

After reflecting on his prior commitments, President Biden looked to the future, claiming he can “…say with confidence the USA will meet our emissions targets by 2030.” The referenced targets are ones aligned with the Paris Agreement the United States recently rejoined, which would cut emissions 50 to 52% below 2005 levels. This would require bold policies on top of the recent implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act, but it is not an impossible task.

Fortunately, President Biden’s focus was not just US-centric. He referenced a promise he made previously to “…work with Congress to quadruple US support to climate finance and to provide $11 billion annually by 2024…” to support global climate mitigation. This includes $3.3 billion for clean energy projects and issuing green bonds to strengthen developing countries’ sustainability markets. This demonstrates that Biden has the broader context of climate change in mind, with poorer countries lacking the resources to mitigate the effects of extreme weather. However, with $100 billion already promised worldwide to poor countries not going through as well as Democrats losing control of the House, it is going to be much more difficult to accomplish an additional $11 billion in the coming years.

How to accomplish President Biden’s goals

All of President Biden’s climate goals require Congress’ cooperation to support his financing goals. Included in Biden’s $11 billion commitment is “Climate Finance +” which would leverage partnerships with new public and private investments in developing countries. The billions of dollars involved in this would be in the hands of the House of Representatives. It is unrealistic to assume the full $11 billion promised will go through with the recently flipped House, but the effort is admirable nonetheless.

Another one of President Biden’s key goals is his ongoing methane-focused initiatives. Through the Global Methane Pledge launched during COP26 last year, over 130 countries are limiting methane in over two thirds of the global economy. Since methane has a much shorter residence time in the atmosphere than CO2, the effects of limiting their emissions will be much more apparent and shorter term. This is excellent for limiting atmospheric warming in the short term, but not as impactful in the long term sustainability of the planet than limiting CO2 emissions. Ultimately, both would be required to limit the most damaging effects of climate change.

It is in President Biden’s best interest to collaborate with nations who can effectively mobilize funding for green projects. With projected backups in the United States’ legislative branch due to the House’s strengthened veto powers, President Biden may not get as much progress with his climate agenda as he would like.

Other world leaders

COP27 saw many other world leaders leading the way in the financial and cultural fight against climate change. Many are using the energy crisis caused by the war in Ukraine as an example for the turmoil a reliance on fossil fuels would bring in the future. Antonio Costa, the Prime Minister of Portugal, argued in a November 8th speech that his country’s investment in renewables 15 years ago can act as an example of how to prevent reliance from an outside fossil fuel source.

25 new collaborative actions began between countries during COP27. With focuses in key areas like infrastructure, power, and agriculture, world leaders are starting to recognize the value of investing in their nations’ future via green solutions. Moving forward with future agreements, sustainability should be at the forefront of all international cooperative efforts.

World leaders are taking climate change more and more seriously. William Ruto, President of Kenya, sums it up perfectly by saying “…weak action is unwise. No action is dangerous.” The leaders of nations most vulnerable to the effects of severe weather events like droughts understand the reality of the risk more than any other nation.

Chandrikapersad Santokhi, President of Suriname, puts this disparity front and center by stating “We are, in fact, climate negative. But despite this, we are highly vulnerable.” The funding for climate action must come from the major emitters for there to be any justice in the resolution of this crisis. Santokhi personally states that “my country is doing our part with the limited resources and capacity.” It is about time for the major emitters like the United States, Russia, and China to collaborate with each other to save the rest of the world. Platforms like COP facilitate these conversations in a way that most other forms of diplomacy lack in the singular focus it has on climate change.

Developments and individual action

The developments from COP27 have shown a spotlight on the priorities of the world. With the looming threat of international conflict in East Europe, world leaders are being more open to bold solutions to problems in hopes to boost economic hopefulness.

A substantial focus on young people was a new development in this year’s conference, including the first ever youth-led climate forum. The future of our planet is held in today’s youth. It is admirable that nations are taking steps to bridge the age divide between policy makers and the people that will be directly influenced by them.

COP27 did not go by without controversy though. Protesters within the conference space pressed world leaders to do even more, critiquing the lack of immediate action and human rights abuses made by several attending nations. The environmentalist public is acutely aware of the role the major world powers have in global carbon emissions. Well-meaning discussions on policy between nations who may have been hostile otherwise is a powerful first step in global cooperation on a global issue.

EARTHDAY.ORG’s campaign Invest In Our Planet aligns with the bold leadership the United States must take in tackling the climate crisis. Both on the lawmaking and individual sides, there is much to be done to make sure that we have a sustainable future. By investing in renewable energy and green products respectively, the government and its people can ensure that the United States is doing its equitable role in the fight against climate change.