The climate summit organized Thursday and Friday by the White House, bringing together 40 of the most polluting countries, can not be a raid to give a good conscience. Since the Paris Agreement of 2015, the planet has been on a worrying trajectory. CO2 emissions continue to increase at the risk of producing irreversible effects.
Joe Biden’s ambition is clear: he wants to keep an election promise and make the United States a power once again capable of exerting global influence. In this sense, his climate initiative is one of the most significant acts of his young presidency. The exercise remains perilous. States around the world are focused on reviving their economies hit by the pandemic. Joe Biden himself must restore the image of his country tarnished by the disastrous anti-climate policy of his predecessor, Donald Trump. He is actively working on it.
He replaced competent people at the National Environmental Protection Agency. He presented an infrastructure investment plan that gives pride of place to renewable energies. He halted construction of a pipeline supposed to transport oil from the Canadian tar sands to the United States. For Europeans, it is a relief to see an ally come to their senses and re-enter the Paris Agreement.
The second largest polluter behind China, the United States can act as a catalyst for global mobilization. This is what Barack Obama had achieved in 2014-2015. Faced with the bitter failure of the COP in Copenhagen in 2009, he had learned lessons. There was a need for a credible national plan to reduce greenhouse gases and upstream negotiations with China. The cooperation of Obama and Xi in 2014 had changed the dynamics of the COP in Paris and made it possible to overcome the strong reluctance of countries like India. Today, John Kerry, the US special envoy for the climate, repeats the exercise. With his Chinese counterpart, he undertakes to cooperate.
But there are plenty of obstacles. Nothing says that in 2025 the occupant of the Oval Office will not dismantle the climate policy of the current president. This uncertainty in the face of long-term commitments is harmful. The new cooperation with Beijing is to be welcomed, but it is very fragile in view of the growing animosity that characterizes the Sino-American relationship.
Domestically, the Democrat will have to set ambitious but realistic goals. At the end of the week, he should announce a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions for the United States by 2030. In Congress, however, he will have to face a tough opponent: the powerful oil and gas lobby.