The decrees issued by Democrat Joe Biden follow various symbolic acts reversing the American orientation on climate change with which he inaugurated his presidency. The turn of Republican Donald Trump’s denial, however, does not guarantee that he will do everything necessary to catch up.
Biden had already referred the United States to the Paris Agreement (2015), appointed one of the architects of the treaty, John Kerry, as climate ambassador, and littered his office with favorable figures to fight global warming. He describes as an “existential threat” what Trump saw as a “Chinese fraud”.
In addition to resuming Paris’s pledge to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 28% by 2025, the Democrat aims to eliminate them from power generation in 2035 and make the country’s carbon neutral economy by 2050.
These are respectable targets, given the poor retrospective of the US and the world so far, insufficient to meet the target of keeping the global average temperature rise at 2 ° C, preferably 1.5 ° C. The 1 ° C mark has already been exceeded and GHG emissions have not increased due to the pandemic.
Biden has announced major moves in the right direction, such as suspending oil exploration concessions on public lands. This, however, should not create problems for mining in private areas and in the thousands of concessions authorized by Trump.
The predecessor had given up on tightening fuel economy standards in vehicles, and the Democrat decided to revert to stricter limits. In five years, the auto industry will have to run an average of 21.6 kilometers on a liter of gasoline, instead of the 16.9 km / l maintained by Trump.
For zero-emission vehicles, internal combustion engines should be replaced by electric propulsion (provided that the energy in the batteries comes from clean sources, of course). The government promises to electrify its fleet of 650,000 vehicles and create 500,000 refueling stations, but that is not enough to make the transition into a market of more than 273 million vehicles.
Analysts consider this revolution impossible without pricing, that is, by charging for GHG emissions. The most effective way would be to introduce a carbon tax, but it is precisely this type of systemic measure that Biden will find it more difficult to implement due to the obstacles he will face in Congress.
Moving quickly towards a climate-friendly economy requires more than executive orders, which can be overturned by future presidents. Only laws offer the permanence and predictability that will push the industry towards a carbon-free future – and here, Biden may not even have the full support of his own party.
MPs and senators from coal, oil or natural gas producing states, even the Democratic Party, often stand in the way of measures that could affect businesses and jobs in these sectors. One of them is Joe Manchin III, a Democrat from West Virginia who will chair the Senate Energy Committee, a notorious supporter of fossil fuels.
Not to mention the Republican parliamentarians, who will do anything to ease the burden on the industry. To reverse the foreseeable obstacles, Biden would need a dozen more votes than Democrats have in the Senate.
In addition, the president-elect will quickly face disappointment from the young wings of the Democratic Party, who have advocated the left-wing candidacy of Bernie Sanders for president and the aggressive economic decarbonization program known as the Green New Deal. .
Finally, at the international level, his government is showing signs of slipping into the same geopolitical clash with China that has conducted climate treaty negotiations or watered down its provisions over the past three decades. Given this, it seems difficult for two hundred signatories to the Paris Agreement to be able to significantly increase the ambition of its goals, as it would be essential to avert the worst of the climate catastrophe.