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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 7 March 2021

Joe Biden to make tackling climate change a national security priority

John Kerry, the new US president’s climate envoy, says plans represent ‘the greatest economic transformation in history’

President Joe Biden tours the Plymouth Area Renewable Energy Initiative in New Hampshire, US. Reuters
President Joe Biden tours the Plymouth Area Renewable Energy Initiative in New Hampshire, US. Reuters

US President Joe Biden’s administration will release more policies it believes are needed to tackle climate change, his climate advisers said on Saturday.

The government is also urging China to toughen one of its targets on greenhouse gas emissions.

You're going to see us move forward with what's the vision of the future

Gina McCarthy

Gina McCarthy, the White House’s national climate adviser, did not say what policies would be involved.

A memo seen by Reuters on Thursday showed Mr Biden will unveil a second round of executive orders as early as January 27.

They will include an omnibus order to combat climate change domestically and elevate the issue to a national security priority.

“We’ve already sent signals on the things that we don’t like that we’re going to roll back, but this week you’re going to see us move forward with what’s the vision of the future,” Ms McCarthy said during a meeting of the US Conference of Mayors.

Mr Biden, a Democrat who took office on January 20, quickly issued executive orders cancelling the Keystone XL pipeline, which would import tar sands oil from Canada, and rejoining the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

Those two moves reversed former President Donald Trump’s policies. During his four years in office, Mr Trump rolled back about 100 regulations on climate and the environment as he pursued a policy of energy dominance to maximise output and exports of oil, gas and coal.

John Kerry, Mr Biden’s special climate envoy, said a recent pledge by China, the world’s top greenhouse gas emitter, was “not good enough”.

In September, Chinese President Xi Jinping set a goal for his country to become carbon-neutral by 2060, 10 years after the 2050 time frame favoured by most countries, while also pledging a more ambitious short-term goal on emissions.

As secretary of state under former president Barack Obama in 2015, Mr Kerry helped bring Beijing to the table at the UN climate conference in Paris. Now the Biden administration has begun to apply diplomatic pressure on countries to work harder on climate, Mr Kerry said.

On Friday he talked with foreign ministers in Europe, who told him they had high expectations for the Biden administration after a lack of action on climate in the Trump years.

“We realise we come back with humility,” Mr Kerry said.

He said the majority of US states and more than 1,000 mayors continued to move ahead on climate during the Trump years.

The US, with emissions second only to those of China, must do more than reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, perhaps with emerging technology such as capturing carbon dioxide from the air, Mr Kerry said.

Tackling climate change did not mean a diminished lifestyle, such as driving less or not being able to eat meat, he said. The Biden administration, mayors and other local leaders will have to persuade Americans that curbing climate change “can be the greatest economic transformation in global history”, Mr Kerry said.

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Gallery: solar power across the Middle East

Updated: January 24, 2021 03:54 PM

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