So far, the top issue for the new Biden Administration combining foreign and domestic policy is climate change.
And it’s no wonder.
Ice caps encircling the North and South Poles are receding rapidly. Their melting is causing all oceans globally to rise threatening vulnerable cities in all continents with inundation beginning within a decade or so. Think of the impact on Bangladesh, a low-lying coastal land with the world’s eighth largest population of more than 162,000,000, many living in poverty.
Then, think of the coastal cities closer to home like New York, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Miami, whose ocean or river views are most threatened with at a minimum, partial inundation as the seas rise a generation from now. This threat to America and the world demands an overarching response!
The Biden Plan
Joseph R. Biden Jr., six days after his January 20 inauguration as the nation’s 46th President, outlined an unprecedented $5 trillion climate change policy, the Biden Plan for a Clean Energy Revolution and Environmental Justice. Biden had already announced that the United States would remain in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change mitigation. (The former president issued a withdrawal notice from the climate accord in 2019.)
The projected ten-year plan would be a shared one. The Hill reporters Chris Mills Rodrigo and Miranda Green outlined the plan’s main points as:
- A Congressionally-passed base of nearly $1.7 trillion of federal dollars paid for by undoing tax breaks for fossil fuel producers enacted by President Trump and congressional Republican majorities.
- Investments from state and local governments as well as private companies would supply the remaining $3.3 trillion cost of the incoming administration’s proposed new plan.
As the President put it: “Science tells us that how we act, or fail to act, in the next 12 years will determine the very livability of our planet. That’s why I’m calling for a Clean Energy Revolution to confront this crisis and do what America does best — solve big problems with big ideas.”
Part of the plan, Mr. Biden said during his campaign, would be to re-enter the international Paris climate accord of six years ago and “lead an effort to get every major country to ramp up the ambition of their domestic climate target.” The plan, according to The Hill, leaves the question of an enforcement mechanism to Congress.
The incoming president also made it clear he would refuse campaign donations from oil, gas and coal corporations or executives. As part of that plan, White House aides said, Mr. Biden would commit to sign a New Fossil Fuel Money pledge organized by the youth climate group Sunrise Movement. Sixteen other well known Democrats, including incoming Vice President Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) have already signed that pledge.
Opponents of new climate action – a mixed reception
The New York Times, in an analysis by Coral Davenport and Lisa Friedman entitled: “The Battle Lines Are Being Drawn in Biden’s Climate Push,” note that what the reporters term “powerful and surprising forces are at his back.”
Examples of support they cite are:
- Automakers are coming to accept that much higher fuel economy standards are their future. Shareholders are demanding that corporations acknowledge and prepare for a warmer, more volatile future, and a youth movement is driving the Democratic Party to go big to confront the issue.
- Mr. Biden has already staffed his government with more people concerned with climate change than any previous president. “But during his campaign,” according to the Times correspondents, “he tried to walk a delicate line on fracking for natural gas, saying he would stop it on federal lands but not on private property, where most such fracking takes place.” Opposition to climate change initiatives in coal-producing states such as West Virginia is likely to be intense.
According to Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson on January 29, what other countries do will really matter, especially when almost 90 percent of Earth’s global emissions of greenhouse gases come from abroad.
On the other hand, Robinson writes, free-market forces are playing a more constructive role than could have been imagined only a few years ago. “Even in an era of cheap oil and gas, the costs of solar and wind energy have plummeted,” in his view, “to become competitive. Carmakers are placing big bets on electric cars and trucks, with General Motors announcing January 28 that it will stop making gas-powered cars by 2035”.
A 21st Century Marshall Plan on energy?
Robinson speculates that a key Biden envoy, former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, will have to try to persuade China, India, Brazil, Russia and other big emitters of greenhouse gases to set ambitious targets for reducing the carbon they spew into the atmosphere. “Biden has one big advantage on his side,” Robinson concludes. “History is on his side. And history — eventually — wins.”
As a 36-year veteran of the Voice of America (VOA), Alan Heil traveled to more than 40 countries a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, and later as director of News and Current Affairs, deputy director of programs, and deputy director of the nation’s largest publicly-funded overseas multimedia network. Today, VOA reaches more than 275 million people around the world each week via radio, television and online media. Read More