The difference could hardly be starker. Donald Trump reportedly called it a ‘hoax’. Joe Biden sees an ‘existential threat’ and the ‘number one issue facing humanity’.
I refer of course to climate change.
When Joe Biden checks into the White House on 20 January 2021 he will carry with him a truckload of hope from people around the world yearning for American leadership on tackling climate change. First to send congratulations to the President-elect was the Fijian Prime Minister who bluntly told Biden ‘Together, we have a planet to save from a climate emergency…’ and urged him to re-join the Paris Agreement.
Frank Bainimarama will get his wish.
Joe Biden has vowed to re-join the Paris Agreement on day one of his Presidency and has made climate change a top priority of his four-year term. His acceptance speech described climate change as one of the great battles of our time, a battle he is preparing for with a clean energy agenda that includes reaching net zero by 2050, $2 trillion for climate measures and much more besides (more here).
The Washington Post anticipates a ‘180-degree turn on climate change’ while Boris Johnson reckons we now ‘have a real prospect of American global leadership in tackling climate change’.
The Obama-Biden partnership of 2009-2017 had similar hopes. But, now with China planning for net zero by 2060, outcomes could be better. The UK is also showing progress in tackling its ‘clean growth’ grand challenge with coal use plummeting, CO2 emissions down to 1888 levels and offshore wind generation growing exponentially. There’s much, much more to come and the Government will publish its long-anticipated Energy White Paper imminently (which my colleague Mike Cheshire wrote about here).
A year from now, global leaders will meet in Glasgow for the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26).
By then we should know more about what President Biden can ultimately achieve. Cost, energy supply and Washington politics are just some of the hurdles he will need to clear. With Republicans running the Senate, Trumpism ever-popular and elections never far away, Joe Biden’s battle against climate change is yet to begin. The world will be watching.
Will Scawn is an associate director at Camargue