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Climate Action Lags, President Biden to the Rescue?

Warming Accelerates as Climate Action Lags — report

For at least two decades, countries, companies, cities, and communities have been claiming they are “doing better” on climate change. Annual reports have been full of ratios showing greenhouse emissions per unit of output falling, and sometimes emissions falling in absolute terms.

All good—but unfortunately, not enough.  All over the world, as leaders and CEOs have been honestly claiming they are doing better, the situation has been getting worse, according to the World Resources Institute’s State of Climate Action report released earlier this month.

Climate Graph 2020

Graph source: NOAA, NASA, released 2019


The report, evaluated climate progress across six sectors and found that decarbonization efforts across most of them, from vehicle electrification to renewable energy gains, need to happen at least five times faster.  The report findings conclude:

  • Climate impacts from global heating are indeed much worse than we had earlier understood.  
  • Countries need to speed up their climate action dramatically to stay on track toward halving global emissions by the end of the decade.
  • In order to meet benchmarks within the Paris Agreement for 2030 and 2050, the report recommends rapid transitions — between three and eight times faster than current rates — to zero emissions power generation, lower industry emissions, and have more sustainable crop output and reforestation.
  • The current pace of emissions reductions worldwide is too slow to meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement.
  • Rampant deforestation and agricultural sector emissions are two of the worst climate offenders. Both have increased since 2012.

To get on track, the world must—among other actions—rapidly transition to clean electricity generation, accelerate the uptake of electric vehicles, reduce emissions from industrial production, boost agricultural productivity, shift to more sustainable food consumption patterns, and increase annual tree cover gain. For these and other goals, the report specifies the much faster rate of progress needed to meet most of these global targets.

Helen Mountford, vice president of climate and economics at the World Resources Institute, said the fight against global warming needs to “greatly accelerate” before a United Nations climate conference in late 2021.    “The decisions countries make in the lead up to the COP26 UN climate negotiations next year could either steer us to a safer and more resilient future or greatly increase the likelihood of deadly and costly climate impacts,” she said in a statement.

Biden Talks with 14 World leaders, Discusses Need for Climate Action

Biden Intl Meeting


The leaders of the Vatican, Ireland and Canada each talked to President-elect Joe Biden about climate change in their first phone call. So did the British, Australian and Indian prime ministers. The presidents of France, Chile, South Africa and South Korea did, too.

Biden has discussed climate change in 12 of his first 14 calls with world leaders, according to readouts from his transition team. That’s an unprecedented diplomatic focus from a new U.S. president, and signals Biden’s plans to make climate a signature component of his foreign policy.

The phone calls are more than a gesture, experts said. The U.S. has a credibility problem on climate that will be difficult for Biden to repair.

Domestically, Republicans have enough congressional power to stymie new laws mandating emissions cuts. Internationally, the history of every 21st-century U.S. president reversing their predecessors’ climate policies calls into question the durability of Biden’s promises.

With his calls, Biden could be signaling that those constraints won’t dissuade him from pursuing climate action, said Barry Rabe, a University of Michigan professor of environmental policy.

“There are lots of things for a president to talk to a world leader about in that initial call. And I think what is said could be indicative of what’s on the top of a president’s list,” he said.

“The very fact that he would raise [climate] in call after call — rather than cherry-picking one or two — is really suggesting that this is going to be a significant priority,” Rabe said.

Biden has vowed that one of his first acts as president will be returning the U.S. to the Paris climate agreement, which President Trump quit. He has also vowed to pressure other countries to pledge more ambitious goals.



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