In the US, President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) used the period immediately after he took office in 1933 to initiate a series of actions to calm the nation’s crippling financial panic. The 15 major pieces of legislation from these first 100 days became known as the New Deal. FDR’s productive beginning was popular with the masses, and his example set a first 100-day standard against which future US presidents would be measured.
The first 100 days of the Biden-Harris administration are sure to be exciting. A major covid-19 vaccine distribution could include up to “100 million covid vaccine shots” during that time. “I’m absolutely convinced that in 100 days we can change the course of the disease and change life in America for the better,” the President-elect said earlier this month.
Also, the Biden reiterated his decision to sign a mask-wearing mandate on his first day in office. Unable under the law to compel each person in the US to wear a mask, he can require masks in places like federal buildings and on planes, trains, and buses for interstate travel.
Biden said another national priority is to get kids back in school safely. He said if Congress provides the necessary funding to protect students, educators, and staff, “my team will work to see that a majority of our schools can be open by the end of my first 100 days.” He will need states and cities to assist in this safe schools goal by putting strong public health measures in place.
Most importantly, Biden reiterated his campaign pledge that his administration will set a target of cutting US emissions to net zero no later than 2050. “The United States will rejoin the Paris Agreement on day one of my presidency,” he said. “I’ll immediately start working with my counterparts around the world to do all that we possibly can, including by convening the leaders of major economies for a climate summit within my first 100 days in office.”
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has signaled he will consider attending a global climate summit proposed by Biden, part of a push to bring like-minded nations in line with Japan’s goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.
Biden said in a statement: “We’ll elevate the incredible work cities, states, and businesses have been doing to help reduce emissions and build a cleaner future. We’ll listen to and engage closely with the activists, including young people, who have continued to sound the alarm and demand change from those in power.”
Chip in a few dollars a month to help support independent cleantech coverage that helps to accelerate the cleantech revolution!
The President-elect also announced the names of those who will join his climate team:
- Jennifer Granholm, the former governor of Michigan, as Energy Secretary
- Gina McCarthy, an Obama-era Environmental Protection Agency administrator, to run a new White House office on climate change
- Representative Deb Haaland of New Mexico, a Laguna Pueblo, to be Interior Secretary
- Michael Regan, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, as EPA administrator
- John Kerry, former US Secretary of State, will be climate envoy
- Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Indiana and former US presidential candidate, has been tapped as transportation secretary.
“We’re in a crisis,” Biden said. “Just like we need to be a unified nation to respond to covid-19, we need a unified national response to climate change.”
Results of the Recent Climate Ambition Summit
Last week, 75 countries met without the US in a virtual Climate Ambition Summit to mark the 5th anniversary of the Paris accord. The US was absent, of course, because current President Donald Trump rejects the climate crisis.
- Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Mexico were excluded as they had failed to commit to climate targets in line with the Paris accord.
- Australia’s commitments were judged inadequate, and Brazil’s announcement of a net zero target just before the summit was shelved, as it seemed to lack credibility.
- India’s prime minister promised only to “exceed expectations” by the centenary of India’s independence in 2047.
- China gave some details to its plan to cause emissions to peak before the end of this decade but stopped short of agreeing to curb its planned expansion of coal-fired power.
- The UK pledged to stop funding fossil fuel development overseas, and the EU set out its plan to reduce emissions by 55% by 2030, compared with 1990 levels.
Nathaniel Keohane, a senior vice-president at the Environmental Defense Fund, said: “The [Climate Ambition] Summit captured and reflected the momentum of recent months, but didn’t push much beyond it. The world is waiting for Biden to bring the US back into the Paris agreement and will be looking for how ambitious the US is willing to be.”
When Biden’s pledge to bring the US to net zero emissions by 2050 is included, countries accounting for more than two-thirds of global emissions are subject to net zero targets around mid-century, including the EU, the UK, Japan and South Korea. China has pledged to meet net zero by 2060, and a large number of smaller developing countries have also embraced the goal.
“We have before us an enormous economic opportunity to create jobs and prosperity at home and export clean American-made products around the world, harnessing our climate ambition in a way that is good for American workers and the U.S. economy,” he said.
According to the UN Emissions Gap Report, global greenhouse gas emissions continued to grow for the 3rd consecutive year — reaching 59.1 GtCO2e in 2019. While they expect some downward trend in emissions in 2020 caused by the coronavirus, the “emissions gap” — the emissions level with existing commitments compared to where we need to be for a safer climate trajectory — is still dangerously large. To be on a trajectory to hold temperature increase below 1.5°C, the world needs to cut emissions by an additional 29–32 GtCO2e in 2030 from the current commitments under the Paris agreement.
The world is still heading for a catastrophic temperature rise above 3°C this century – far beyond the goals of the Paris agreement. But with leadership that begins with Biden’s first 100 days, there is hope in a green pandemic recovery and growing commitments to net-zero emissions.