Biden administration puts global warming at center of agenda as nations prepare for COP26

On February 19, 2021 the Munich Security Conference (“MSC”), world’s leading forum for debating international security policy, organized a special edition event assembling world decision-makers such as Joe Biden, Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron and Boris Johnson to discuss transatlantic cooperation.

Traditionally held in February, the MSC had to postpone its yearly held conference due to the ongoing pandemic. The special edition aimed at providing senior leaders with a globally visible platform to discuss how to “rebuild and renew the transatlantic and international cooperation” and “continue vital debates” at the very time and place the MSC 2021 would have normally kicked-off.

Divided in four sections, the event dedicated a spotlight to tackling the Climate crisis in which John Kerry, climate envoy to the United States, warned that the world’s “best” and “last” hope to get back on track to limit global warming to 1.5C is the upcoming November United Nations climate summit to take place in Glasgow (“COP26”).

The climate envoy asked leaders to put in place policies aimed at “averting the worst consequences of global warming” asserting that “there is no faking it in this moment” and affirming that none of the world’s major signatories to the Paris climate agreement had been doing enough.

In its December 2020 Emissions Gap Report, the United Nations Environment Program concluded that Since December 12, 2015, global greenhouse gas emissions had continued to climb by 1.3% per year on average. 2019 breaking records with 52.4 billion tons of CO2 emitted by human activity, almost 60 billion tons if the emissions due to the cultivation of land formerly in natural areas are included.


President Biden’s Administration on Climate Change

John Kerry’s announcement tallies with the United States’ formal re-entry to the Paris Accord on February 20, 2020 and follow through on President Biden’s promise to take “aggressive action to tackle climate change”.

United states had officially withdrawn from the accord in 2019 after former President Donald Trump had begun the process in 2017. This withdrawal from the agreement by the United states, world’s second-largest emitter of CO2 according to the World Bank, had been received negatively by Governments around the world.

Hours after being sworn in, President Biden moved to reinstate the United States to the Paris agreement, signing two executive orders and a Memorandum addressing climate change policy and scientific integrity on January 27, 2021 (“Climate Day”).  The two Executive Orders and Memorandum included a moratorium on new oil and gas lease permits on federal lands and waters and announced an intent to join domestic action with international action so as to increase global action on climate change.

The Orders reaffirm the United States’ attentiveness to address climate change “both bilaterally and unilaterally” and addresses climate change measures at the domestic level. The Government expects to but in place both a “government-wide approach” and a strategy centralized with the White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy, tasked with overseeing all “domestic climate-policy decisions and programs”.


The future?

With the United states return to the Paris accord, Washington will release a new emissions cut pledge ahead of the November COP26 convened by Biden with other major emitting countries. This new goal should be “at least” a 50% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030, from 2005 levels according to Laurence Tubiana, France’s climate change ambassador and key architect of the Paris agreement.  In comparison, the Obama administration had aimed at cutting emissions by at least 26% by 2023 relative to the 2005 levels.