September 25, 2022


American officials hope it will put them in a better position for the tough negotiations ahead: international climate talks in Egypt this fall.

Kerry and Biden now have billions in legislative clean energy investments to tout when they go to COP27 in November, which US lawmakers and experts say is a game-changer.

“I think we all felt like we were walking in the desert with no hope of finding water and the vultures started circling,” Heather Zichal, CEO of the trade group American Clean Power and a former Obama White House climate official, told CNN . . “Now we’re talking about over $360 billion [of climate investment]. It’s really apples and oranges in terms of what you can get.”

But while the bill is being welcomed abroad, there is a general sense that the US is simply catching up with its allies after years of inaction. Pressure has also mounted for the US to take financial responsibility for its historic role in the crisis.

“It’s obviously good, but it’s important not to get carried away,” Bob Ward, director of policy and communications at the London-based Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, told CNN about the bill.

Ward said the bill gives the pledges the U.S. has already made “some credence,” but what most of the world wants to see the U.S. commit to is significant climate funding — funds to help the most vulnerable countries to reduce emissions and adapt to the crisis.

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“The issues that are still key in the debates are not really addressed by this bill — there’s nothing in the international climate finance bill, which is a little worrying,” Ward said. “Leadership is now needed from rich countries on climate finance.”

Climate funding would not typically be included in the kind of tax and climate bill Democrats are preparing to pass, and Biden has called for climate funding in his 2023 budget. However, the US has a history of pushing back against international calls for financial instruments. In last year’s talks, the US was against a loss and damage plan that would compensate affected countries for the damage caused by the climate crisis.

But if the bill passes, lawmakers and experts said it would be a serious boost to Biden’s ability to meet his international climate commitments. It would put the U.S. on a path to cut greenhouse gas emissions 31-44 percent below 2005 levels by the end of the decade, according to the nonpartisan climate think tank Rhodium Group. Biden has pledged to cut US emissions in half by 2030.

“Suddenly, we can show up at these conventions not just with rhetorical leadership, but with policy leadership,” Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut told CNN. “It makes it much harder for backward countries to claim that the US is talking out of both sides of their mouth — and use that as an excuse to sit on the sidelines.”

Sino-US tensions could overshadow progress

While the bill has a record amount of money for climate and clean energy, it also tries to achieve something bigger — competitiveness with China in renewable energy and manufacturing and domestic jobs.

The bill contains $60 billion for domestic clean energy production and $30 billion in production tax credits for wind, solar and battery storage. The tax credit for electric vehicles is written to incentivize American manufacturing or manufacturing in countries with which the US has a free trade agreement, such as Canada and Mexico.
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But China has cornered the market in making EV solar panels and batteries, and US lawmakers and experts have long warned that the US will be left behind unless Congress invests in a domestic supply chain with funding and tax credits.

Murphy and Democratic Sen. John Hickenlooper of Colorado told CNN they hoped the bill would encourage productive competition with China — prompting the world’s largest broadcaster (the U.S. is now the second largest) to do more to remove of coal.

“China is our adversary. They’re going to pay close attention to that and I guarantee you they’re going to come out and show that they’re going to do even more and better than we can,” Hickenlooper said. . “If you look at how much solar and wind China has implemented in the last few years, it’s going to be dramatic. Now they’re going to have to ramp it up even more because we’re going for it.”

China's special climate envoy Xie Zhenhua speaks at the World Economic Forum in Davos in May.
US-China rivalry had for decades stymied climate negotiations before the 2015 Paris Agreement. But a climate partnership between the two nations announced last year in Glasgow gave hope that the world’s two biggest polluters might just work together enough to put a real dent in the shows.
But that is now on hold. On Friday, China’s foreign ministry announced it would suspend bilateral climate change talks following House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan. The two nations have been cooperating on climate even as tensions have escalated in other areas in recent years.
The world is not adapting fast enough to the climate crisis, the UN says

Sam Geall, CEO of the China Dialogue think tank, told CNN he doesn’t think the US legislation would have much of an impact on China’s climate decisions.

“China has its own concerns, including the fallout from the Russian invasion, the macro economy, Covid lockdowns and the crucial National Congress conference in the fall,” Geall said. “Even if there was such a positive change, I’m not sure it would have that much of an impact on the COP, given the other issues that are distracting and fueling tensions right now.”

Ward warned the US to remain humble ahead of the November summit and remember how the Trump administration’s whip is reorienting international climate policy.

“The United States is just playing catch-up, and I worry sometimes that the United States has forgotten that the world didn’t stand still for those years of the Trump administration when he was getting on with things,” Ward said. “To some extent, there has been a change in the world order, and the US cannot dominate in the same way as before.”



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