‘We’re back, baby’: New bill boosts US climate credibility

‘We’re back, baby’: New bill boosts US climate credibility

WASHINGTON — After a moment when hopes dimmed that the United States could become an international leader on climate change, legislation that Congress is poised to approve could rejuvenate the country’s reputation and bolster its efforts to push other nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions more quickly.

The head-snapping twist of events has created a joyous case of whiplash between Democrats and environmentalists. It is an example of the interconnectedness of domestic politics with international diplomacy.

Advocates feared that last month’s breakdown in negotiations in Congress had undermined efforts to limit the catastrophic effects of global warming. They are now energized to boast about an unrivalled U.S. success.

“This says, ‘We’re back, baby,'” said Jennifer Turner, who works on international climate issues as director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s China Environment Forum in Washington.

The legislation, which also has provisions on taxes and prescription drugs, includes about $375 billion over the next decade for clean energy development and financial incentives for buying electric cars, installing solar panels and weaning the power grid off fossil fuels. Even though the proposal was reduced during hard negotiations, this is the largest investment made in climate change by the United States in its history. It also represents a major shift in Washington’s influence overseas after years of inaction.

The Senate approved the legislation Sunday. It is likely that the House will approve the bill on Friday. Then it goes to President Joe Biden for his signature.

Poor nations remain concerned that rich countries like the United States have not fulfilled financial commitments to help them cope with global warming and transition to clean energy, something the legislation does not address. But Biden can still point to it as evidence that the U.S. political system can address the world’s most pressing problems.

“Our ability to have credibility on the global stage depends on our ability to deliver at home,” said Ali Zaidi, the White House deputy national climate adviser. “We are the pace car. That helps other people go faster and faster.”

After President Donald Trump withdrew from the Paris climate accord, Biden entered office pledging to rejoin the fight against global warming. He set an ambitious new target for reducing greenhouse gas emission — at least 50% below 2005 levels by 2030 — and began proposing policies to put the country on track.

The legislation that Biden is expected to sign is estimated to reduce emissions between 31% to 44%, according to an analysis by the Rhodium Group, an independent research firm. The administration may take further regulatory measures to close the remaining gap. It’s encouraging that the U.S. finally is trying to get on top of climate change after many years of delays. This investment will help undo some of the damage caused by President Trump’s administration,” stated Mohamed Adow of Power Shift Africa (based in Nairobi, Kenya).

The movement on the bill comes just three months before the next U.N. conference on climate change, which is known as COP27 and will take place in Egypt.

“Let’s hope this legislation is the start of more international cooperation in the lead up to the COP27 summit, where the most vulnerable get the support they need,” Adow said.

Although the U.S. will still face entrenched skepticism, the progress in Washington may also give John Kerry, the White House’s special envoy on climate, more momentum going into the conference in November.

” It gives John Kerry more credibility and puts wind in his sail. “This will change the whole dynamic.”

Several experts said the U.S. will be empowered to put more pressure on China, India and other nations that have high emissions but have been unwilling to cut back for economic reasons.

” This restores some diplomatic legitimacy for the U.S.A as an influential participant in international climate negotiations,” stated Scott Moore, the director of China Programs and Strategic Initiatives of the University of Pennsylvania.

Shayak Sngupta was a fellow at Observer Research Foundation America. This Washington-based affiliate is affiliated with a think tank in India. He wasn’t as enthusiastic.

“Considering that this bill is long over due after years of U.S. climate inaction, many countries may view this as the ‘bare minimum’ of the U.S.’s historical and moral responsibility for climate,” he said.

Sengupta emphasized that poor nations are still looking for rich countries to fulfill their $100 billion commitment for financial assistance to address global warming, an issue that’s been a sore spot during international negotiations.

There will also be other problems. Biden’s achievements could be undone if Republicans take control of Congress and the White House. Increased demand for solar panels and battery equipment could cause supply chains to fail. China’s foreign ministry on Friday announced the country is cutting off direct climate talks with the U.S. in response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan, severing a rare point of longstanding, if sometimes tumultuous, cooperation between the two countries.

However, experts said China will still take notice if the U.S. succeeds in becoming a clean energy powerhouse.

” “For a long time now, China has led in clean energy investments globally,” stated Xizhou Zhou of S&P Global. This global research company is an expert on climate and sustainability. “They will probably see this legislation as a competitive move.”

Deborah Seligsohn, an expert on China’s politics and energy at Villanova University and a former U.S. diplomat in Beijing, said the result could be lower prices globally.

“To the extent the U.S. starts really investing in things that compete with key Chinese businesses — in solar, wind, electric vehicles, batteries — I think you’re going to see Chinese businesses interested in ramping up their competitiveness in these industries, by making better products and bringing prices down,” she said.

That could have a ripple effect around the world.

“Developing countries may see prices for renewable energy going down, and adoption going up,” Seligsohn said.

Vibhuti garg, an Indian energy economist, stated that U.S. investments in clean energy research can pay off in countries with less resources for developing new technology.

“The U.S. can share the technology know-how with other countries, especially the Global South,” she said.

Aditya Ramji, from the Institute of Transportation Studies at University of California, Davis, said that cooperation — along with financial help — will be critical.

“At some point there will have to be discussions on how they can provide intellectual property access or lower costs to countries like India and others to leverage electric vehicle technology,” he said.

Climate activists said the U.S. legislation is just one step on a larger path towards climate action. More progress is needed to put the world on track to limit global warming to 1. 5 degrees Celsius (2. 7 degrees Fahrenheit), a target that some scientists believe is slipping out of reach.

” We need to push for political commitments from other countries,” stated Luisa Neubauer (climate activist, Fridays for Future) who is a prominent figure in the Fridays for Future movement.

“This is the only way to transform this year from one of backlash against fossil fuels to one of climate justice.


Associated Press writers Frank Jordans in Berlin and Sibi Arasu in Bangalore, India, contributed to this report.


Associated Press climate and environmental coverage receives support from several private foundations. See more about AP’s climate initiative here. All content is the sole responsibility of The Associated Press.

The post ‘We’re back, baby’: New bill boosts US climate credibility appeared first on Associated Press.