From front: President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Council Charles Michel, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and United States President Joe Biden arrive for a reception during the G7 Summit on June 11, 2021, in St Austell, Cornwall, England. Jack Hill/WPA Pool via Getty Images
President Biden returned Wednesday from his first overseas trip as head of state, having affirmed the power of climate action to drive equitable recovery at home and abroad.
With our partners in the Group of Seven (G7), a collective of prosperous democracies, aligned with that approach, it’s time for Congress to get on board.
At Biden’s urging, his G7 counterparts raised the bar on collective climate action, pledging to cut their carbon pollution in half by 2030.
They vowed to conserve or protect at least 30 percent of the group’s lands and ocean waters by 2030; to end the international financing of new coal-fired power plants by 2022; and to provide $2 billion to help lower-income countries transition from coal-generated electricity to renewable energy.
And, in closing its annual leaders’ summit in Britain, the group embraced climate action as the key to equitable recovery from the global economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic. A rebound driven by clean energy and climate resiliency investments worldwide, the group stated in a joint communique, “offers the greatest economic opportunity of our time to boost income, innovation, jobs, productivity, and growth.”
The G7 approach echoes globally the American Jobs Plan that Biden has laid out domestically to get the U.S. economy back on its feet—and our people back to work—by rebuilding our aging bridges, ports, and roads; cleaning up our dirty power plants; speeding the shift to electric vehicles; capping abandoned oil and gas wells; and replacing lead pipes and upgrading our water systems.
Biden’s doing what’s best for the country at home, and he’s gotten the rest of the world on board. Now it’s time for Congress to get behind this grand vision of American renewal so we can move forward with the climate action and broad-based recovery the country so desperately needs.
It’s been four years since we’ve seen U.S. climate leadership, at home or abroad. President Trump rolled back domestic clean energy policies and rejected climate science. He pulled out of the global framework for cooperation established by the landmark 2015 Paris climate agreement. And he eschewed collective climate action—by the G7 or any other group.
Biden has moved quickly to turn all that around.
On his first day in office, Biden ordered the United States to rejoin the Paris climate accord. He installed a skilled and seasoned team at senior levels of his administration to restore sound science and reasoned urgency to the making of climate policy and the conduct of government operations across the board. And he’s moving forward with a comprehensive package of climate action and strategic investment, with the American Jobs Plan at its core, to turn the United States from a climate laggard to a leader once more.
On the strength of those domestic moves, Biden helped lead the G7 to the important pledges it made this week, including a core promise to cut carbon pollution in half by 2030, compared to 2010 levels. That’s what the science tells us is the minimum we must do to avert a climate catastrophe. The group also pledged to help low- and middle-income countries cut their own carbon footprint to become more resilient in the face of growing climate hazards and harm.
These pledges are important. The G7 countries—Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States—together account for 24 percent of the global carbon footprint and 45 percent of global economic output. This group must lead on climate as part of its broader charge to build consensus for action on the issues that shape our times.
Beyond the G7, Biden helped gather our NATO allies around additional climate action. On Monday, the powerful transatlantic alliance adopted its first comprehensive Climate Change and Security Action Plan. It’s a blueprint to cut the carbon footprint from military bases and operations; strengthen base resilience against climate impacts; and adapt to the growing security threats posed by widening deserts, melting sea ice, and raging wildfires, storms, and floods.
In climate diplomacy, as in foreign policy overall, consensus builds momentum for progress. This week’s NATO and G7 commitments set the stage for more of both in heading toward the next round of United Nations climate talks in Glasgow this November.
It’s essential that the world lean into climate ambition with specific action in Glasgow this fall. That’s going to take U.S. leadership. And leadership abroad begins at home.
Biden’s American Jobs Plan drives equitable recovery with climate action, in a moment when we need both.
We’ve got to cut the dangerous carbon pollution from burning fossil fuels in half by 2030, and stop adding it to the atmosphere altogether by 2050, if we’re to arrest the mounting costs and growing dangers of climate change.
Implementing the American Jobs Plan is the single-most important action we can take right now to rise to that challenge.
The American Jobs Plan calls for strategic investment and other provisions to help clean up the dirty power plants and set the country on track to getting all of our electricity without burning fossil fuels by 2035. It will speed the shift to electric vehicles by helping us to build half a million charging stations nationwide and expand sustainable public transit. It enables us to cap the millions of abandoned oil and gas wells that threaten our climate and our communities and replace aging lead pipes that put the health of millions of our families at risk every day.
With 9.3 million Americans still out of work in the wake of the devastating pandemic, the American Jobs Plan will drive the strong, durable recovery we need, creating millions of good-paying jobs in every community, including for workers who want to belong to a union.
And 40 percent of the benefits of the climate action under his plan will go to the low-income communities and people of color who pay the highest price for the dangers and damage that come from fossil fuel production and use and the climate costs and risks these dirty fuels cause.
The American Jobs Plan will strengthen our economy, our competitiveness, and our workforce while making our communities healthier, more prosperous, and more equitable.
It goes hand in glove with Biden’s global vision for climate action and equitable recovery. And it positions U.S. workers and companies to prosper in the fast-growing global marketplace for clean energy solutions.
Leadership begins at home. Our G7 partners have rallied around this vision for global renewal and responsible stewardship. It’s time for Congress to do the same.
About The Author Mitch Bernard has successfully litigated water, air, toxics, and environmental justice cases against Texaco, Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, Duke Energy, and a variety of government agencies. He is recognized by Lawdragon as one of the 500 leading lawyers in the United States for 2019.
From 1995 to 1998, as a monitor appointed by U.S. District Judge John S. Martin Jr., Bernard oversaw the creation and implementation of an environmental compliance program at Con Edison. He later served as a consultant to the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. He is a graduate of Princeton University and New York University School of Law, where he was an Arthur Garfield Hays Civil Liberties Fellow. He was a law clerk in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Bernard is based in NRDC’s New York City office.
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