American climate credibility at stake in Washington

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The biggest climate change legislation ever proposed in the United States is in limbo, and its fate will have far-reaching effects on global climate and diplomacy at an upcoming United Nations climate summit.

After a House vote on the $ 1,000 billion infrastructure bill was scuttled last week, President Joe Biden was on the road in Michigan on Tuesday in an attempt to garner support for the legislation and a budget package of $ 3.5 trillion over 10 years.

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The pair of bills increases spending on social protection, health and environmental programs in addition to infrastructure.

They contain billions of dollars for programs to fight climate change, including tax credits for new renewable energy plants, electric vehicles and energy efficiency. A major new initiative, the Clean electricity performance program, would pay utilities to buy more clean energy, and money is also included to incentivize farmers and foresters to sequester greenhouse gases on their land.

The legislation is designed to help the United States meet its goals set under the Paris climate agreement to halve greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the decade.

An estimate from the Rhodium Group, an independent research company, found that costly climate programs in the most extensive version of the legislation would reduce nearly a billion tonnes of emissions by 2030.

“It’s pretty much the same as taking every vehicle off American roads for good,” said John Larsen, Director at Rhodium. “It’s pretty much the same as all of Russia’s broadcasts.”

The programs outlined in the bills would not be sufficient to meet the goals of the US climate agreement “but that would be a huge step forward,” Larsen said.

The proposed line items are unlikely to maintain their current size for long. The most important spending bill is now “down to $ 2 trillion” in negotiations on Capitol Hill, and final approval of the $ 1 trillion infrastructure bill, according to the Associated Press. Senate dollars is suspended.

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Passing legislation that enshrines reductions in greenhouse gas emissions ahead of the UN climate summit in November is seen as key to giving US officials bargaining power.

“This is the time, this is the place, it is Congress that must finally pass the legislation that makes the United States the leader, so that we can tell the rest of the world that it is time for us. all of dealing with this existential crisis, ”Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey said in remarks online last week.

At the UN climate summit in Glasgow, US negotiators led by climate envoy John Kerry will seek more ambitious commitments from countries like India and China.

Tomas Anker Christensen, Danish Ambassador for Climate, said in the last diplomatic push ahead of the summit, all eyes are on the world’s biggest emitters.

“People are looking at both, what the big economies’ commitments are in terms of goals, but also, what plans do they have in place to actually achieve them,” Christensen said.

Christensen said a set of climate laws are circulating in the EU system. India and China are in internal deliberations on their domestic efforts.

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“And I think the package that goes through Congress is the kind of legislation that will allow the United States to deliver on commitments made,” Christensen said.

The stronger the national legislation or framework for reducing carbon emissions, said Christensen, the more credible a country’s goals will appear, which would contribute to a positive outcome at the Glasgow meeting.

“The more we show we can do it, the better,” Christensen said.

This credibility is essential for all countries, but perhaps especially for the United States, which is used to going back on its word in climate discussions.

“Climate policy is littered with examples where the US Congress has opposed the US administration in trying to lead the world in international cooperation to reduce emissions.”

Claire Healy, E3G

“Climate policy is littered with examples where the US Congress has opposed the US administration in trying to lead the world in international cooperation to reduce emissions,” said Claire Healy, who works on transatlantic cooperation as director of the Washington office of climate change think tank E3G.

Healy points out Kyoto Protocol, which the United States signed in 1998 but that the Senate has never ratified. The climate pact ultimately failed.

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“You can also point the finger at the Paris Agreement. I mean what could be achieved within the Paris framework was very determined by what could go through Congress, ”Healy said.

Most of the Paris Agreement is not legally binding as it would have required ratification by Congress.

Given this history, major climate legislation passed ahead of the Glasgow summit would show Congress agrees with the president this time around.

“If the United States shows up without this package, this deal done, its credibility is further diminished,” Healy said.


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