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With Climate Agenda Stalled at Home, Biden Still Hopes to Lead Abroad


On his first day in office, President Biden recommitted america to the Paris climate agreement, noting in his inaugural address that “a cry for survival comes from the planet itself. A cry that may’t be any more desperate or any more clear.”

He promised an intense concentrate on the climate crisis at home, but additionally abroad. Because the world’s best historic emitter of the pollution that’s dangerously warming the Earth, america would cut its emissions and lead the strategy to a safer future, he said.

But 18 months into his administration, Mr. Biden’s domestic climate agenda is hobbled. And his weakened position at home makes it difficult for america to persuade other nations to follow its direction within the fight to carry back the rising heat, drought and storms that threaten every country.

“When Biden got here into office, the world breathed a sigh of relief,” said Ani Dasgupta, chief executive of the World Resources Institute. “It hasn’t worked out that way.”

A divided Congress and dissent inside his own party have blocked Mr. Biden from acquiring his most desired tool to chop pollution — laws to hurry the alternative of coal and gas-fired power plants with wind, solar and other renewable energy sources.

The war in Ukraine has reignited global demand for fossil fuels and created a domestic political problem for Mr. Biden in the shape of record gas prices, opening the door for his Republican critics and the fossil fuel industry to call for more, not less, gas and oil drilling.

And on Thursday, in the most recent blow to Mr. Biden’s climate plans, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that may constrain the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to limit carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

Together, these setbacks will make it nearly inconceivable for Mr. Biden to succeed in his goal of cutting emissions from america roughly in half by 2030. And it becomes harder for America to persuade other nations to do the identical.

“The U.S. domestic laws and governance systems are making it very difficult for the Biden administration to do the whole lot they desired to do,” said Saleemul Huq, the director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh. “It is vitally disappointing that the U.S. will not be capable of display leadership.”

At the same time as Mr. Biden’s domestic climate agenda faces trouble, his climate envoy, John Kerry, continues to crisscross the globe, trying to steer other countries to quickly move away from fossil fuels ahead of the subsequent round of worldwide climate talks, referred to as COP27, in Egypt this November.

“John Kerry goes world wide saying all the appropriate things, but he can’t make the U.S. deliver them,” Mr. Huq said. “He loses credibility when he comes and preaches to everyone else.”

Through a spokesman, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres called the Supreme Court ruling “a setback in our fight against climate change, after we are already far off-track in meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement.” Under that agreement, nearly 200 nations promised to chop pollution to maintain global warming “well below” 2 degrees Celsius, compared with preindustrial levels. Scientists say if warming exceeds 1.5 degrees Celsius, the likelihood of catastrophic climate impacts increases significantly.

The planet has already heated by a median of about 1.1 degrees Celsius, and worldwide emissions proceed to climb. Humans burned enough oil, gas and coal to pump 36 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in 2021, greater than in any previous yr.

The Supreme Court decision got here during every week of meetings for President Biden with allies in Europe — with leaders of the Group of seven nations within the Bavarian Alps after which with fellow NATO members in Spain. At each meeting, leaders renewed their guarantees for strong climate motion. But immediate emissions reduction took a back seat to efforts to shore up energy supplies across the continent and ease the pain of oil and natural gas price spikes driven by the war.

A lot of Mr. Biden’s counterparts find themselves struggling for leadership authority on the climate issue as well.

The European Commission in May unveiled a sweeping plan to transition to renewable energy. But after shuttering its nuclear power plants and finding itself squeezed by reliance on Russian gas, Germany is looking for to extend imports of liquefied natural gas. Germany, Austria and the Netherlands are temporarily boosting coal power generation.

“What we’ve got seen is that the high prices on oil and gas, and likewise the cut in supply, has to some extent led to that some countries are moving back to coal,” Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary general, told a special session on climate on the Madrid summit. “That’s bad for climate, but after all it reflects the desperate situation they’re in.”

The USA occupies a fraught role in the worldwide efforts to combat climate change.

It has generated more greenhouse gases than another country, and is home to most of the oil and gas corporations which have worked against climate motion for a long time. Americans use much more energy per capita than people in other countries, a trend that shows no sign of slowing down. And climate change has turn out to be a partisan issue, with most elected Republicans questioning the necessity to rapidly reduce emissions.

Despite all this, nevertheless, america has still managed to play a very important role in mobilizing the international support to deal with climate change over the past 30 years.

Starting in 1992, with the signing of the primary global climate treaty referred to as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, American presidents and diplomats have been instrumental within the efforts to shape a unified international approach to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.

“The role that the U.S. has played has been as an architect of international coordination on the difficulty of climate change,” said Sarah Ladislaw, managing director on the Rocky Mountain Institute, a nonprofit research group specializing in energy efficiency. “Additionally it is a key thinker across the strategy behind learn how to uphold those commitments.”

Yet American policy has been inconsistent, with Democratic administrations pressing for more forceful climate motion, and Republican administrations often backing away from the very commitments their predecessors helped design.

Under President Bill Clinton, america helped design the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, where dozens of nations agreed to cut back the degrees of seven greenhouse gases. A couple of years later, President George W. Bush walked away from it.

The identical dynamic repeated itself more recently.

In 2014, the Obama administration announced that america and China would work together to tackle climate change, albeit at different paces. The subsequent yr, leading economies and developing nations together signed the Paris agreement where they promised to fight climate change.

Then under President Donald J. Trump, america became the one country to withdraw from the Paris agreement.

“American leadership has waxed and waned,” said Rachel Kyte, dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

When Mr. Biden took office last yr, he recommitted america to climate diplomacy, appointed Mr. Kerry as the primary ever presidential climate envoy, and flew to Glasgow to call other world leaders to motion on the United Nations climate conference in November.

In Glasgow, america helped secure several latest efforts to assist tackle global warming, including the Global Energy Alliance, Global Finance Alliance and a pledge by greater than 100 countries to slash methane emissions.

“Major global coordination to tackle the world’s hardest problems simply cannot occur without American leadership,” said Raj Shah, chief executive of the Rockefeller Foundation and the pinnacle of USAID under President Obama. “That’s true on the food crisis, and it’s true on climate.”

“There are such a lot of dramatic setbacks with respect to the climate agenda, that the international diplomacy aspect is the one aspect that offers me hope,” Mr. Shah added. “This stuff are all generating real momentum.”

Understand the Supreme Court’s E.P.A. Ruling

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A key decision. The Supreme Court issued a ruling limiting the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to control carbon emissions from power plants, dealing a blow to the Biden administration’s efforts to deal with climate change. Here’s what to know:

The case. The justices had been called to rule on whether the 1970 Clean Air Act allows the E.P.A. to issue sweeping regulations across the ability sector or limits the agency to dictating changes at individual power plants.

A suspended rule. At issue within the case is the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era federal regulation adopted under the Clean Air Act that sought to manipulate emissions from power plants. After its announcement led to a barrage of lawsuits from Republican states and the coal industry, the Supreme Court put this system on hold in 2016 and it never took effect.

The stakes. The plaintiffs, which include several Republican attorneys general and coal corporations, need to rein within the E.P.A. and other federal agencies that issue regulations that affect the American economy, arguing that it must be as much as Congress to set the principles.

The ruling. The ruling curtails the E.P.A.’s ability to control the energy sector, limiting it to measures like emission controls at individual power plants and ruling out more ambitious approaches like a cap-and-trade system without the intervention of Congress.

Further implications. The choice could also pave the best way for restrictions on federal agencies’ abilities to control health care, workplace safety, telecommunications and the financial sector.

More recently, the Biden administration has been working to develop partnerships between the private and non-private sectors to encourage big corporations to purchase more environmentally friendly versions of products like aluminum and steel which are chargeable for substantial emissions.

Yet after the policy whiplash of the past six years, the remaining of the world is nervously watching the autumn midterm elections and beyond.

“There may be very much an existential angst that there may very well be one other Trump presidency or Trump-like presidency,” said Ms. Kyte. “That basically weighs heavily on the remaining of the world.”

Ramón Cruz, president of the Sierra Club, said the prescription for restoring American leadership was clear.

“The U.S. can maintain the credibility President Biden sought to rebuild if his administration and Congressional Democrats fulfill the climate commitments they’ve made,” he said. “President Biden must use every tool at his disposal to deal with the climate crisis and show the world that the U.S. is a frontrunner.”

Scientists are issuing increasingly dire warnings concerning the risks of constant to burn fossil fuels, and across the globe, extreme weather, heat waves, fires, drought and rapid changes to the climate are unleashing successive waves of human suffering.

“Recent funding for fossil fuel exploration and production infrastructure is delusional,” Mr. Guterres, the United Nations secretary general, wrote on Twitter this week. “Fossil fuels should not the reply. Renewable energy is.”

For now, nevertheless, despite their lofty commitments, major industrialized nations — including america and European countries — are showing little capability to take the sort of swift motion that scientists say is required to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

“The entire world is sort of a junkie that’s hooked on fossil fuels,” Mr. Huq said. “Now that the Russians have turned it off, as a substitute of weaning themselves off it, they try to seek out it elsewhere. We’re going backward reasonably than forward.”

Jim Tankersley contributed reporting from Madrid and

Lisa Friedman contributed reporting.

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