US climate agreement is a ‘small step’, but diplomats say the world needs bigger work


Even as Democrats work to deliver the largest-ever US climate investment in a new spending package, many officials and activists abroad have described the deal as falling short of the nation’s commitment to helping other nations. Stimulating global action to avoid dangerous warming.

The Inflation Reduction Act will be a major boost to climate-friendly efforts within the United States – a Unprecedented transformation. But it will do little to support weak nations around the world who have been pleading for years for rich nations to help them prepare for a warming world. Nor will it reduce America’s carbon emissions as much as President Biden has promised.

More than one climate diplomat has used the word “minimum” to describe the inflation-reduction law’s climate measures, which analysts expect will reduce US emissions by about 40 percent by the end of the decade compared to 2005 levels. The nonpartisan Committee on Responsible Federal Budget estimates it will About $385 billion to combat climate change and encourage energy production.

“It’s a step forward,” said Harjit Singh, head of global policy strategy for Climate Action Network International, a coalition of nonprofit groups that advocate for emissions reductions, clean energy policy and environmental justice. “But the international community might call it a small step when we really need a leap.”

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Singh, who is based in New Delhi, noted that the United States is the world’s largest historical emitter, responsible for more than 20 percent of all greenhouse gases generated since 1850. It is also the world’s largest economy, which means it has more capacity . than any other country to make the investments needed to shift away from fossil fuels.

According to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, countries must nearly halve emissions by 2030 to have an equal chance of limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C (2.7°F) above pre-industrial levels – a threshold scientists say It will save millions of lives in vulnerable communities and avoid dangerous escalation of climate disasters.

To achieve this goal, the United States pledged last year to cut pollution from global warming to 52 percent below 2005 levels. More executive action and nationwide policies will be needed to make up for the shortfall between Biden’s pledge and what can be achieved through legislation.

“This will certainly help raise the United States’ credibility on the international stage and support its active international diplomacy,” said a senior European climate official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal assessments of the deal’s consequences. “If passed it could help politics at an important moment” ahead of a new round of climate negotiations in Egypt this fall.

But you can’t bring a large economy to net zero without regulation. And many would like to see more funding for international climate finance, as shortages in the United States have already derailed the world’s $100 billion target.

Nor legislation Provide funding to help vulnerable countries already struggling with extreme temperatures, persistent drought, rising sea levels, and the onslaught of other climate impacts — despite multiple promises that the United States will.

In remarks on Wednesday, Biden called the inflation-reduction law a “big step forward” that would help the United States meet its commitments on global climate — though he indicated it was less than the $555 billion package he proposed ahead of climate talks in Glasgow. last fall. .

The United States provided just $1 billion out of a $3 billion pledge to the United Nations Green Climate Fund that was pledged under former President Barack Obama. last fall Biden pledged to quadruple that amountto $11.4 billion, but Congress has yet to appropriate that extra money.

And although Biden sought about $11 billion in international climate funding in his latest budget request, it is not clear whether Congress will appropriate this money.

“Inclusive climate action means not only reducing emissions locally, but also providing technological and financial support so that we as a global community can emerge from the crisis,” Singh said. “No one is safe until everyone is safe. This is the kind of situation we are in.”

There are some provisions that will give US negotiators more leverage at UN climate talks in Egypt this fall as they urge other countries to advance their ambitions, said David Wasco, director of international climate action at the World Resources Institute. He was particularly encouraged by the $1.5 billion methane emission reduction program, which would incentivize oil and gas companies to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases.

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Last year, the United States helped lead a coalition of more than 100 countries that promised to cut methane by 30 percent by 2030. But analyzes show that methane emissions in major fossil fuel-producing regions, such as the Permian Basin, have risen in the past months since That pledge.

Wasskov said the program, along with initiatives to reduce pollution from agriculture, would add “real impetus” to efforts to halt gas emissions whose immediate force in climate warming is 80 times that of carbon dioxide.

However, others have argued Bill Don’t do as much as you can.

Singh pointed to provisions in the climate agreement that would boost continued investments in fossil fuels, such as a requirement that the federal government allow more oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Alaska. The Intergovernmental panel on climate changeThe International Energy Agency Other major research groups have said the world cannot develop new fossil fuel infrastructure to hope for the 1.5°C target.

Singh said US policy is “setting the tone for the kind of transition we need to make”. By promoting more oil and gas projects, “to me it still shows lukewarm leadership in climate action.”

But some experts said they were only happy with the win.

“Progress on the US Climate Package is welcome news,” Conrod Hunt, a diplomat from Antigua and Barbuda and lead negotiator for a group of small island nations working together on international climate policy, said in an email. He added that the group hopes to see the United States and “other major emitters show their leadership by taking urgent action in the climate space to reduce carbon dioxide or remove carbon.”

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It’s “certainly a big step forward, especially after the disappointment,” Carlos Fuller, longtime negotiator at global climate talks and Belize’s permanent representative to the United Nations, said in a letter to the Washington Post. Supreme Court ruling against the Environmental Protection Agency. “

Fuller lamented that the bill “includes new oil drilling” but said that “the auto industry’s support for e-mobility is significant, as this will move to those countries that import American cars.”

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“One can ask for more, and one can always do more,” said Anders Levermann, a climate scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. But he said he thought it was a big step.

“The climate agreement as it was put forward, as I’ve read it, is trying to bring about structural change,” said Leverman. “If the United States moves toward carbon neutrality, the rest of the world will not be able to ignore it.”

As the world looks at Biden Low polling numbersMany fear that whatever the United States is doing now could easily collapse if Republicans win the White House in 2024. Solar panels may not be Uninstall In this scenario, But a US president hostile to international climate talks would be a major setback for broader efforts to get the world’s biggest polluters – including China and India – to agree to step up their efforts to reduce their emissions.

“Reaching an agreement in Washington is the bare minimum for the United States to do,” said another senior European diplomat involved in the climate negotiations.

“I don’t expect champagne,” said the diplomat. You may have breathed a sigh of relief that there would be some climate action in the US over the next two years. But with another change of management looming, it’s hard to talk about restoring credibility.”

Brady Dennis contributed to this report.

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