President Joe Biden spoke at the 27th United Nations Climate Conference (COP27) where he affirmed his commitment to tackling the climate emergency through investments in clean energy investments, climate adaption, and nature based solutions but he drew mixed reactions from environmentalists who compared his rhetoric with reality.
New Jersey progressive Lisa McCormick welcomed Biden’s announcement of stronger regulations, meant to curb methane pollution resulting from oil and gas production, but she joined other activists who stressed that the United States must do substantially more to combat the planetary emergency.
Biden claimed his administration has a “bold agenda” to tackle the climate emergency during a speech at the COP27 conference in Egypt.
Addressing COP27 attendees at the Tonino Lamborghini International Convention Center Sharm el-Sheikh, Biden asserted that his administration is “meeting the climate crisis with urgency and determination” in service of “a cleaner, healthier, and safer planet for us all.”
“We’re racing forward to do our part to prevent climate hell,” said Biden, leader of the world’s second-worst greenhouse gas emitter. “We’re not ignoring harbingers that are already here.”
The flow of funds from rich economies remains critical in building trust in climate negotiations and in saving millions of lives from the impacts of extreme weather events.
“The climate crisis is a shared global reality but while the U.S is one of the world’s largest polluters, producers and exporters of fossil fuels, under the Biden administration, America has failed to complete existing funding investments for vulnerable countries,” said McCormick. “While every dollar counts, the U.S. commitment of $150 million is still a far cry from the $17 billion that is missing from the $100 billion pledged to poorer countries.”
Thirteen years ago, at a United Nations climate summit in Copenhagen, rich nations made a promise to channel $100 billion a year to less wealthy nations by 2020, to help them adapt to climate change and mitigate further rises in temperature.
McCormick said that target has never been hit, as this chart illustrates.
“Allowing more drilling and extraction of oil and gas is entirely incompatible with avoiding climate catastrophe,” said McCormick. “The U.S. government must stop subsidizing fossil fuel industries, Biden must use his executive authority to declare a Climate Emergency to phase out fossil fuel production, and Americans need to stop investing in developments that make the climate catastrophe worse than it already is.”
“The Biden administration must act to catalyze climate solutions and aggressively rein in fossil pollution,” said Earthjustice president Abigail Dillen “The roadmap to emission reductions is clear: We must end fossil fuel extraction and exports; ensure frontline communities which already bear the brunt of toxic pollution and extreme weather are prioritized for investments; and strengthen and protect our bedrock environmental laws that will be crucial to building our clean energy future.”
Biden reiterated the need to urgently transition away from fossil fuels and committed to meeting 2030 emissions targets, but McCormick said that must be realized through immediate and equitable actions at home.
“The opportunity is there for the U.S. to finally live up to its responsibilities on the global stage, and the time is now,” said Rachel Cleetus, policy director and lead economist for the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, who also asserted that “with the latest science showing that the global emissions trajectory is far off track, and with devastating and costly climate impacts already taking a harsh toll on people in the U.S. and around the world, the U.S. must take bolder action to cut its emissions, together with other major emitting nations, and increase investments in climate resilience.”
Activists have condemned the administration for allowing ramped-up fossil fuel production—including expanding oil and gas extraction under public lands and waters—amid high energy prices caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and rampant corporate profiteering.
“Achieving any sort of climate justice requires the United States and the world’s biggest polluters to kickstart the phaseout of fossil fuels and invest in the just transition of fossil fuel workers and communities,” said Greenpeace USA chief program officer Tefere Gebre. “The climate crisis is a shared global reality and yet the U.S—one of the world’s largest polluters, producers, and exporters of fossil fuels—has failed to complete existing funding investments for vulnerable countries.”