Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Biden: Is he the climate messiah?

Of particular interest is the return of the world’s second largest polluter of the atmosphere – the United States of America (US)- into Paris Agreement accord. 

The new administration of Joe Biden is aims at zero pollution by 2050. The Paris accord was hatched during the Conference of Parties (COP) 21 of 2015. The non-binding agreement’s goal is to keep the world from becoming 2 degrees Celsius hotter than before industrialization. COP refers to annual conferences by 197 countries to discuss how to tackle climate change impacts.  

The public affairs officer at the US Embassy in Botswana, Emilia Adams, has confirmed that Biden brought the US back into the Paris Agreement on his first day in office, on January 20, 2021.  A month later the US became a Party of the COP again.

Former President, Donald Trump withdrew the US from the accord, according to New York Times (NYT), in November 2019. He called the accord, ‘job killing’. He also said it would punish the American people while enriching foreign polluters. NYT further indicates that the US under President Barrack Obama, promised to reduce emissions (trapping pollution) by about 28 percent by 2025, but progress on that goal stopped under the Trump administration.

Botswana’s Negotiator at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Professor Julius Atlhopheng said this year, 2021 negotiations should continue as climate change is threat to humanity and mother earth. The year 2020 was the year in which countries were to preview progress made on their pledges to reduce emissions.  The outbreak of Coronavirus choked this. 

Nicolas Jankowski, head of political section and climate change in British High Commission; Botswana, ruling out any further postponement of COP should Coronavirus continue to ravage the world said; “With the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines in 2021, we expect not.” The United Kingdom and Italy co-host the COP 26 scheduled for November 2021.

Responding to this publication’s inquiry, Adams explained that the Biden government will host a Leader’s Climate Summit on Earth Day, April 22nd, in an effort to raise global climate ambition and make a positive contribution in its participation at the COP26 and beyond. 

Reuters highlights that a Scientific group- Rhodian Group cautioned that under a second Trump administration, it expects that US emissions would increase by more than 30 percent through 2035 from 2019 levels.  

The Guardian underpins that: “In 2015, at Paris- France, 197 nations agreed to voluntarily cut the heat trapping pollution causing climate change.  The ambition is to limit heating to 1.5 Degrees Celsius. The countries have not done enough to limit temperature rise to 2 Degrees Celsius and the world is already hotter than the pre-industrial period despite the Paris Agreement and it is on track to become around 3 Degrees Celsius hotter.”

The online publication further narrates that the Trump administration rescinded essentially all major regulations that were meant to encourage a shift away from oil, gas and coal and towards cleaner sources of energy. It eliminated Obama-era rules requiring lower carbon electricity and cars. 

Adams highlighted that it is the policy of the Biden administration that climate considerations are an essential element of United States foreign policy and national security.  And that the United States will work with other countries and partners, both bilaterally and multilaterally, to put the world on a sustainable climate pathway.  The United States will also move quickly to build resilience, both at home and abroad, against the impacts of climate change that are already manifest and will continue to intensify according to current trajectories.

Her sentiments are defined by The Guardian: “He wants the electricity system to be carbon free by 2035. He plans clean energy infrastructure and climate measures-spending as much as possible in his first four years in office. He wants to de-carbonise buildings, invest in high speed rail and try to make the US top producer of electric vehicles.” He budgeted $2 trillion to boost clean energy and rebuild infrastructure.

Apparently, Reuters cautions that most scientists believe that the world must cut emissions sharply and quickly in order to avoid the most catastrophic effects of global warming. China (the world’s leading polluter), Japan, South Korea and the European Union have recently ramped up their carbon-cutting targets.  

Within Botswana, Adams said, US has worked with the Department of Meteorological Services to train the National Climate Change Working Group to develop a virtual road map for Botswana to use to prepare its national adaptation plan (NAP). Adaptation refers to devising means of living with climate change impacts.

“We are also working with Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO’s) in the Okavango panhandle in conservation agriculture – climate smart solution to counter land degradation and deforestation and introduce water-wise methodologies.”

She said the United States Agency for International Development(USAID’s) environment and energy programs promote resilient economic development in Botswana and across Southern Africa by integrating environmental considerations into policy, decision making, and practice and by ensuring sound management of transboundary natural resources.

On US partnership with African continent, Adams highlighted that the United States is developing a climate finance plan, making strategic use of multilateral and bilateral channels and institutions, to assist developing countries in implementing ambitious emissions reduction measures, protecting critical ecosystems, building resilience against the impacts of climate change, and promoting the flow of capital toward climate-aligned investments and away from high-carbon investments. 

“We have a narrow moment to pursue action to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of that crisis and to seize the opportunity that tackling climate change presents.  Together, we must all work together to build the resilience to climate change that is critical to save lives today and protect the planet for future generations,” she cautioned. 

Botswana is currently without a climate change policy as it is still a draft that still has to sail through parliament. But the recent excessive weather conditions due to cyclones are indicative of the fact that Botswana has to pull up her stockings if she is to join the rest of the polluters. Financing of projects that may help reduce emissions is however a burden to developing countries.

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