THE United States under new President Joseph Biden has joined the growing world movement to combat climate change. In his first week in office, he called for a “whole-of-government approach” to achieve this end.
He ordered all federal agencies to purchase electricity that is pollution-free, and also vehicles with zero emissions. And he directed the Department of Interior to hold any action for new oil and natural gas leases on public lands and offshore.
He set two aggressive goals – the US must have completely clean electricity by 2035. There must be net-zero emissions economy-wide by 2050.
With these definite dates set for two specific programs, the US has joined China which has vowed to stop all carbon emissions by 2060, and Japan which set its own deadline of 2050 to end all emissions of greenhouse gases.
The European Commission has also established the European Climate Change Program for 2000-2004, calling on European Union countries to cut their collective greenhouse emissions by 55 percent of 1900 levels by 2030.
During the Trump administration, the US had rejected the very idea of climate change as being caused by worldwide carbon emissions. One of then President Donald Trump’s first acts was to pull the US out of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, reached by all of the world’s nations, including the Philippines, to cut down on carbon emissions to keep world temperatures from rising beyond 2 degrees over pre-industrial levels.
One of President Biden’s acts upon his assumption to office last January 20 was to return the US to the Paris Agreement. He named two climate officials – White House National Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy and Special Presidential Envoy for Climate Change John Kerry who will represent the US on the world stage.
In addition to these two, President Biden named former Rep. Deb Haaland to lead the Department of the Interior, Michael Regan to lead the Environment Protection Agency, and former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm as secretary of energy.
An Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Rehabilitation will be formed to seek ways to prevent further environmental damage in communities affected by coal mining, oil drilling, and fracking, and see if some of these areas can be converted into centers for renewable energy.
Environmental issues had been left to a few agencies of government in previous US administrations, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Interior. The White House said the new Biden administration will get other departments into the total effort – the Department of Housing and Urban Development, to implement new standards for new construction; the Department of Transportation, to set up more charging stations for electric vehicles; and the Department of Agriculture to work with the nation’s farmers to reduce carbon emissions from livestock and soils.
The US economy is still heavily dependent on oil, natural gas, and coal, but it is now trending towards renewable energy. The new Biden administration has set decarbonization targets and has mobilized virtually the entire government to achieve them.
Its efforts, together with those of many other nations, will go a long way in stopping the pollution of the atmosphere which threatens the whole world with rising ocean levels, more wildfires in so many parts of the globe, and more destructive hurricanes and typhoons.