Global warming: A blow to the international credibility of the United States in the climate challenge | UNITED STATES

Oil and gas extraction infrastructure in Loveland, Colorado (USA).Helen H. Richardson (Denver Post via Getty Images)

“We’re still in.” This is the message that the Democrats of the United States, led by Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, repeated in 2019 through the pavilions of the IFEMA congress center in Madrid. At the end of that year, while Donald Trump was still in the White House, the Spanish capital hosted the UN climate summit. Democrats were at pains to explain that despite Trump — who even pulled his country out of the Paris Agreement — there were local and state governments committed to fighting climate change in the United States. “We’re back,” Democrats repeated in 2021 after successfully removing Trump from power and reintegrating the United States into the Paris Agreement and the global climate negotiation. However, the Supreme Court’s decision that now limits the freedom of action of the federal government and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to limit greenhouse gas emissions is a further blow to the country’s credibility in the international fight against global warming. A UN spokeswoman described the decision as a setback in the fight against climate change, which makes it difficult to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.

The Joe Biden administration has returned to the fight against the climate crisis with aspirations to lead this international battle, and in April 2021 it hosted a summit. Biden surrounded himself virtually with 40 world leaders – including Vladimir Putin of Russia and Xi Jinping of China – and announced an ambitious goal: the United States would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 50-52% in 2030, compared to 2005 levels. The United States was thus placed among the most ambitious powers, almost at the same level as the European Union. However, the stain on American reliability – the main historical culprit of global warming, even though today the world’s biggest emitter is China – remained, due to its past and the problems Biden might face when applying the necessary policies. keep the promises made before the UN, as is now the case with the judgment of the Supreme Court, controlled by a conservative majority.

This commitment to reduce emissions by up to 52% by 2030 was presented by Biden before the United Nations as part of the Paris Agreement, signed in 2015. This pact has worked in large part thanks to the involvement of the former President Barack Obama, but the outline and wording of the agreement — which instead of setting specific cuts to signatories lets each country set its own targets — has been tailored to meet the needs of the United States. No binding formula remained in the Paris text, in order to prevent the Democrats from having problems within their country for the ratification of the Paris agreement.

Because there was a precedent of climate fear. It happened with the pact that preceded Paris: the Kyoto Protocol. The treaty, which required developed countries to reduce their emissions, was ultimately not ratified by Republican George W. Bush’s administration in 2001. This has not changed with subsequent governments.

Biden seemed determined to turn things around, but his politics are now shaky. The problem is that we must act quickly, as scientists warn, and it will not be possible. In their dissenting opinion, the three progressive justices who opposed the decision argue that one of the main reasons Congress is delegating broadly is that an agency such as the Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA) can respond, adequately and proportionally, to new and great challenges.

“Congress knows what it doesn’t know and can’t know when it drafts a statute; and so Congress empowers an expert agency to deal with even the most important issues as they arise. This is what Congress did, the three judges agreed, assuring that the sentence “deprives the EPA of the necessary power – and the power granted – to curb greenhouse gas emissions”. The six judges Conservatives argue that clear, express, and concrete delegation from Congress is needed for the EPA to impose limits on emissions.Biden does not have a majority in Congress to get new restrictive legislation off the ground.

“The Court today prevents the action of a body authorized by Congress to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants,” the judges continue. “The Court names itself, instead of Congress or the expert agency, the climate policy maker. I can’t think of many scarier things. Respectfully, I disagree,” Judge Elena Kagan wrote in her dissenting opinion, which is part of the 89-page sentence, also signed by Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.

The second largest transmitter

Since the Kyoto ratification fiasco earlier this decade, China has become the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases. But the United States is still second. Both powers expel about 40% of all these gases.

If the problem of the United States is that of credibility and the impossibility of setting up instruments to keep ambitious promises, that of China is that of objectives. So far, the Asian powerhouse has only set itself the goal of reaching its peak in emissions in 2030, and from then on it will reduce them. China continues to make the argument that there are common but differentiated responsibilities, hinting that developed countries need to do more than others. And at each climate summit, their negotiators stress that they keep their promises, a veiled reproach to the United States and its fickle commitment against global warming.

In the United States, 29% of greenhouse gases currently come from transportation. Next come electricity (25%) and industry (23%). In order to deliver on his climate promises, Biden needs to put in place measures in all of these areas. But many of the climate policies he has tried to develop have come up against Congress or the courts.

“The judiciary and the legislature are seriously hampering Joe Biden’s ability to do the climate work,” Richard Lazarus, a professor of environmental law at Harvard University, told The New York Times. This new blow from the Supreme Court comes at a very delicate moment for the climate fight when the rise in the price of fossil fuels and the war in Ukraine have pushed many powers to move even further away from their climate commitments. The latest climate summit, held in November in the Scottish city of Glasgow, ended with a call to cut state support for fossil fuels, but most countries are now increasing those subsidies in the face of rising fuel prices. petrol and diesel. And, after their last meeting, the G-7 members issued a public statement defending state-backed investments in the gas sector as a temporary response to restrictions on the arrival of Russian gas.

This summit also led to a commitment by more than a hundred countries to reduce methane emissions by 30% by the end of this decade. This promise was led by the European Union and by Biden; and the EPA, whose wings are clipped today, was an essential instrument for its application in the United States, which largely affects the oil, gas and coal industry.

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