Ahead of COP26, the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, the Biden administration issued a new climate report, “The Long-Term Strategy of the United States: Pathways to Net-Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2050,” detailing how the U.S. will meet the emissions goals set by the White House. The report comes in lieu of real climate legislation, which Democrats in Congress failed to pass ahead of the historic conference. While the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a laudable one, the Biden administration’s approach is unrealistic and irresponsible, especially as Americans grapple with historic prices at the pump and energy costs to heat their homes.
As one out of a four-part series of reports on U.S. “climate activities,” the 65-page report breaks down how the U.S. will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and meet the ambitious targets set by the administration.
The document lays out multiple approaches that the U.S. can take to achieve the net-zero by 2050 goal and describes how achieving that goal will take both the federal government and “all-of-society action.”
Like most climate change plans set by countries today, the U.S. report cites the goal of keeping global warming to just 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, as climate advocates say this limits the projected effects of a changing climate on people and our planet.
But what is most telling is this statement: “If other major economies adopt similar ambition, we can keep 1.5°C within reach.”
If other major economies adopt similar ambition.
The COP26 in Glasgow is taking place with the striking backdrop of a major energy crisis in Europe and a fast-developing one in the U.S. As world leaders meet to discuss how to combat climate change, their citizens are suffering from skyrocketing energy costs and unreliable power, much in part due to climate-fighting policies.
Meanwhile, countries like China and Russia are capitalizing on the energy security missteps of European nations in particular. China is an essential player in any attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a meaningful way, as the country’s 2019 emissions surpassed the rest of the developed countries combined.
But China and Russia are not interested in combating climate change at the expense of their economies. They’ve made that clear by refusing to up their climate commitments at a time when other world leaders are bending over backwards to do so. China is building cheap new coal plants to power their ever-growing market reach and influence, while Russia is capitalizing on Europe’s energy crisis by using its resources as a geopolitical weapon, empowered by President Biden green-lighting the Nordstream 2 pipeline.
Meanwhile, Western nations, focused blindly on climate change, are setting new ambitious goals that threaten their own nations’ energy security by over relying on green energy sources that cause shortages when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine.
Nations participating at COP26 should recognize the factors that have led to the current energy crises and adjust their plans to more realistic options. It’s admirable to work to combat climate change and reduce our carbon emissions but it must be done in a way that ensures affordable and reliable energy for consumers, particularly during the cold winter months.
As for the U.S., the White House can keep producing these climate reports but the Biden administration must reckon with rising gas prices at the pump and the need to heat homes affordably this winter. While Biden acknowledged this need in a speech to the G20 (a gathering of the leaders of the 20 countries with largest economies) in Rome, claiming that his administration is pursuing gradual changes is far from the reality of his policies.
This new White House report is a Biden administration attempt to arrive at COP26 with something in hand to prove how serious the U.S. is about climate change, but at the same time our policymakers flounder in Washington with unrealistic and aggressive policies. Instead of lofty rhetoric hidden inside a 65-page report that few will read, the Biden administration would be better off working across the aisle to pass bipartisan clean energy solutions that will have real impacts on reducing domestic emissions. From there, Biden should use the U.S. as an example for the rest of the world to follow.