What should the USA do?

To meet its more ambitious 2030 NDC, the US must pursue three broad sets of strategies simultaneously:

  • Make full use of existing authorities to implement actions by a wide range of federal agencies, including regulations, incentives, loan guarantees, and public-private sector cooperative agreements;
  • Win Congressional approval of ambitious climate provisions in domestic infrastructure and investment legislation, as well as scaling up budget appropriations for federal agency actions; and
  • Ramp up state, local, business, investor, and other non-federal action on climate and clean energy policy and investments.

What you need to know about USA?

  • Many states, cities, companies, investors and others continue to ramp up climate action, and elements of the business community are pressing Congress to pass ambitious climate and clean energy legislation. However, other companies and trade associations such as the Chamber of Commerce are mounting massive advocacy and advertising campaigns to block the passage of the administration’s proposals.
  • Negotiations continue with Democratic Senator Joe Manchin over the president’s Build Back Better bill, which includes over $500 billion in investments in climate-friendly technologies; without its passage it will be near-impossible for the US to meet its 2030 NDC 50-52% reduction target. –
  • The Supreme Court will rule in June on a lawsuit brought by West Virginia and other Republican states to limit the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory authority over power-plant emissions; with the current 6-to-3 conservative majority on the Court, there are concerns about the outcome. –
  • Legislation to improve the US competitive position vis-a-vis China on a range of technologies has passed both the Senate and House, but major differences between the two bills must be resolved to allow final passage..

Recent developments, threats and levers for action

Recent developments

  • At the January ministerial meeting of the Major Economies Forum, the US proposed collaborative action amongst MEF countries on national methane emissions reduction plans (building on the EU-US-led Global Methane Pledge announced at COP26), mid-term deployment targets for clean power and zero-emission vehicle technologies, and actions to limit the agriculture sector’s contributions to deforestation. But the crisis created by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine makes progress in the MEF (and other multilateral spaces where Russia has been a participant) very challenging, if not impossible.
  • The US will be chairing the Clean Energy Ministerial and Mission Innovation summits in Pittsburgh in mid-September, which will focus on accelerating deep decarbonization in key sectors. The US Department of Energy has launched its Net Zero World initiative, which aims to use the technology research and innovation resources of its 17 National Laboratories to help make progress on this front.In August, the House and Senate approved budget resolutions calling for $3.5 trillion in investments in a broad range of domestic priorities over the next 10 years, including climate and clean energy. Relevant committees have been tasked with producing detailed legislative language to implement these priorities, which the House and Senate Budget Committees will then package together for votes by the full House and Senate. Democratic Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have expressed concerns about the size of the budget package and its implications for the federal debt and inflation; unanimous support is needed from Senate Democrats to pass the package in the face of united Republican opposition.
  • The PREPARE plan for Adaptation and Resilience to be worked together with Congress to reach $3bn/yr by 2024.
  • A LTS has been submitted to the UNFCCC.
  • The United States has pledged funds to the Adaptation Fund for the first time for $50 million.
  • The United States has joined the Global Methane Pledge to reduce methane emissions by 30% (from 2020 levels) by 2030. Although the U.S. specific goal in percentage is not stated, U.S. EPA is proposing to cut 0.9GtCO2 eq of methane from the oil and gas industry during this decade.

Strengths

  • The Biden administration is taking a whole-of-government approach to drive ambitious climate action.
  • Increasing majorities of Americans express concern about the mounting impacts of climate change and support aggressive action to address the climate emergency.
  • Many states, cities, companies, investors, and other subnational actors are implementing strategies to achieve net-zero emissions.

Opportunities

  • More states, cities, companies, investors, and others can join those already taking bold climate action, helping to cut emissions while creating jobs and saving consumers money on their energy bills.
  • President Biden and his team can help drive international collaboration on deep decarbonization, but the crisis created by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and continuing tensions between the US and China both pose challenges on this front.

Weaknesses

  • The sharp partisan differences between Democrats and Republicans on climate and clean energy policy, along with razor-thin Democratic control of both houses of Congress, make bold legislative action very challenging.
  • The 6-to-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court poses risks to the Biden administration’s efforts to use its executive authority under the Clean Air Act and other statutes to reduce emissions

Threats

  • Absent a massive shift in the Republican party’s position on climate and clean energy policy, there could be serious challenges to federal climate action if Republicans win control of the House and/or Senate in the November midterm elections, which is a likely prospect.
  • High prices for gasoline and home heating are hurting US consumers and leading to calls from Republicans (and some Democrats) to ramp up domestic fossil fuel production.

About Climate Diplomacy Snapshots

The data is clear. Accelerated and enhanced action is needed now to build resilience and avoid the worst impacts of climate change. As they seek to address the ongoing health, economic and social impacts of COVID-19, governments should seize opportunities to invest in a recovery that will build social, economic and climate resilience on the long-term. The Climate Diplomacy Snapshots aim to provide the climate community with a clear overview of what each country should do, on climate and recovery, to pursue these joint objectives and keep the global average temperature increase to 1.5°C. Each has been prepared with the help of national experts, and will be regularly updated. The snapshots aim to support climate advocacy in the lead up to COP26.

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