It is time to give an early take on the Biden administration’s climate diplomacy. Now that we have gotten past the first few months of a Biden presidency, what have his administration’s concerted efforts accomplished? What priorities remain outstanding, and what are in need of further attention as we look toward the upcoming Glasgow Climate Change Conference this November?
To find out, we evaluated the nine internationally-oriented climate pledges made by the Biden campaign during the 2020 presidential election.
In a nutshell, we found that the Biden team has already delivered effectively on four of them, made some progress on two, and taken baby steps or made no real progress on three.
Where Biden has delivered. The Biden administration has succeeded in transforming the messaging around climate change and US foreign policy, making it clear that climate change is a priority that cuts across different departments to be deeply embedded across all aspects of US foreign policy. The administration has plainly indicated that relationships with major countries and multi-lateral bodies like NATO will all be framed largely by climate goals. Furthermore, the Biden administration has created brand-new government positions related to climate and filled them with qualified and forceful advocates, such as Special Envoy for Climate Change John Kerry. And, obviously, his administration has made climate change a central organizing principle of domestic policy as well. Climate change represents an important focus of major legislation, including the proposed infrastructure bill, and his administration named a National Climate Advisor in the form of Gina McCarthy.
His administration has not only made the United States rejoin the Paris Agreement; it has set even more rigorous targets (known as Nationally Determined Contributions) than before, pledging to at least halve US carbon emissions by 2030—using 2005 levels as a baseline. It has launched a US-India clean energy initiative that includes tracks for both clean technology development and climate financing; committed to tripling the amount of money given to vulnerable countries to help them fight climate change, and directed agencies to seek ways to phase out fossil fuels from US overseas public financing.