The United States is far behind the vast majority of the Global North when it comes to climate change. While the EU and other world powers have been getting serious about decarbonization and investing in climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies to some extent for years now, the United States has dragged its feet on even acknowledging its contribution to climate change.
Not only is the United States ranked relatively low in the development of green energies and the move away from fossil fuels, but it’s actually losing ground in those rankings year-to-year. In 2019, The World Economic Forum ranked the United States as 25th in the Energy Transition Index. In 2020 the nation slipped to 32nd place. Now, this year, MIT’s Green Future Index ranked the United States at a “relatively dismal” 40th place.
As the world’s largest economy and second-largest emitter of fossil fuels, the United States’ reticence to let go of oil and gas and move toward a green energy transition in earnest poses a major threat to the global struggle against climate change, not to mention the country’s own competitive edge in an evolving energy economy. When the world does move away from fossil fuels, those countries that have already developed strong green energy economies are poised to come out on top.
It is essential for the United State’s own energy security and independence going forward that the country throws some serious money at decarbonization before it falls even further behind. President Joe Biden’s administration ran on the most climate-focused platform that the White House has ever seen successfully elected, but when it comes to implementing those lofty campaign trail promises, his administration is facing serious roadblocks.
While the majority of these hurdles have predictably arisen from the hyper-partisan partitioning of the U.S. Congress, right now Biden’s biggest problem is a fellow democrat. As Biden tries to push his administration’s $150bn Clean Electricity Performance Program through Congress, he will need every single Democratic vote on the program’s side. But one Democratic senator, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, has dug in his heels, promising that he will not support the program.
The Clean Electricity Performance Program is part of the much-debated $3.5tn spending bill that includes many different kinds of incentives for decarbonization and EV adoption, among other infrastructure endeavors. “The provision is one of the main ways the Biden administration and many Democrats expect the US to meet its goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent by 2030, from 2005 levels,” the Financial Times reported this week. “But it risks being gutted in the final stretch of negotiations on Biden’s economic agenda because of Manchin’s opposition, alarming many Democrats and climate experts.”
This Capitol Hill drama is unfolding as the United States heads into the 26th annual United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), known as COP26, to take place in Glasgow, Scotland at the end of this month. The conference is taking place just a couple of months after the United Nations (UN) and the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) released their most damning report on climate change yet, in what the UN referred to as a “code red for humanity.” For most senate Democrats, not to mention environmentalists and climate advocates, heading into COP26 with a gutted and toothless Clean Electricity Performance Program would send a clear and damaging message about the United States’ continued lack of dedication to global climate pledges.
While it’s clear why Manchin, who represents the second-largest coal-producing state in the U.S., would not want to back any measure that is intended to contribute to the end of coal production, it is politically frustrating for President Biden and his ambitions. With COP26 looming, observers should be paying close attention to the future of the Clean Electricity Performance Program.
By Haley Zaremba for Oilprice.com
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