By Akina Nanayakkara
Image Credit: REUTERS/Susana Vera
Cutting carbon emissions, investing in renewables, and moving away from fossil fuels are a few examples from a long list of actions that the US needs to secure for it to have a chance at winning the fight against climate change. During Donald Trump’s presidency, there has been little to no measures taken on climate change. Within the first couple of months after he took office, regulations such as the Bureau of Land Management’s Planning rule and Stream rule were both repealed, revealing the downward trajectory in climate action for the remainder of his presidency. The election of Joe Biden shows promising steps towards a greener America; Biden not only has a strategy for achieving carbon neutrality in the U.S. by 2050, but he staunchly opposes the growing rhetoric of climate change denial. However, though Biden shows more promise than his predecessor, his lenience to conservative policies, reluctance to ban fracking, and choice of advisors bring a shadow of doubt over his ability to implement efficient policies to tackle the climate crisis.
A primary aspect of Biden’s climate agenda is to reinstate the U.S. into the Paris Climate Agreement, from which the US withdrew in June of 2017, under the Trump administration. The Paris agreement is global in its fight against climate change, the re-joining illustrates to partnering countries that climate action is a priority to the US. Although the US is not currently a part of the agreement, it was highly influential in the formation of the original agreement. The Paris Accord ensures measures are taken on a global scale, thus it is abnormal that the US is not part of it, considering that it is the second-highest emitter of fossil fuels. Biden’s vision to re-join will hold the US more accountable for their emission and shift the general dialogue around climate change away from climate change denial.
Biden has also allocated $2 trillion to achieve zero net emissions within the next 30 years. This advised plan presents a vision that is more progressive and ambitious than that of the Obama-Biden administration. Biden hopes to implement this new climate policy by the end of his first term. He hopes that this funding would help America invest in clean energies and incentify its deployment. Biden aspires to reach net-zero emissions no later than 2050; this includes having buses that run on clean energy zero-emissions for new building developments. Within his first term, Biden aims to establish greater numbers of high-speed railways throughout the US. Overall, his ambitions and plans are highly focused. His strategies include numerical measures and time limits which are more likely to induce climate reform in the US.
However, the climate blueprint Biden has set out as well as his history with climate action is still open to criticism. Researchers have pointed out that much of Biden’s plan is dependent upon carbon-capture technology; the process of carbon capture is expensive and requires a power plant to burn a large volume of coal to facilitate the process. Moreover, many have criticized Biden and his climate action timeline. Concerns have been raised that Biden might not have taken into account the Republican-majority Senate and the delays that could cause in implementing his policies. Without the Senate’s support, Biden’s proposals are futile. Even more worrying is Biden’s stance on fracking. In October of 2020, the Biden’s team released a statement asserting that fracking will not be banned. The process of fracking has received criticism in the past, with many arguing that the costs outweigh the gains. The practice would threaten clean water supplies of local areas surrounding fracking sites due to toxic penetration.
It is further suspicious to see that the close advisors Biden has elected to his committee used to work under the Obama administration, all of whom welcomed fossil fuel development that includes fracking. Officials such as Heather Zichal have been known for dismissing climate activists and currently holding a reputable position in the fossil fuel industry. This draws into question Biden’s earnestness to effectively carry out his plan.
With zero carbon emissions as a target for 2050, the Biden administration has a long path ahead of them. The U.S. is a large emitter of fossil fuels and the rejoining of the Paris accord is a step in the correct direction to hold emitters accountable. Although Biden’s history and lenience with corporations are concerning for his plan on climate control, his strategy can be seen as one of the sharpest and most aspiring, if implemented efficiently it will be revolutionary. Overall, with a Biden presidency, there is newfound hope in America helping to lead the world towards a green and sustainable world.