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What is really behind corporate promises on climate change?

Companies with tough goals have made progress. In a report last month, Science Based Targets, which was launched by environmental groups and hundreds of companies united by the United Nations, said the 338 large companies around the world for which it had emissions data sufficient had collectively reduced their emissions by 25%. between 2015 and 2019.

Large companies in the same industry often have very different backgrounds.

For example, Walmart discloses its emission reduction targets and progress on the Carbon Disclosure Project, including a target for its supplier emissions, and its plan has been approved by Science Based Targets. But Costco doesn’t expect to commit to reducing emissions until the end of next year. Costco executives declined to comment.

Netflix is ​​often compared to tech giants like Google and Microsoft. But Netflix has yet to set a target for reducing emissions from its offices, production operations and the computer servers it uses. “Climate action is important and we will announce our plans in the spring, which will include targets based on climate science,” the company said in a statement.

Reducing emissions is difficult. Businesses need to reliably measure the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases for which they are responsible. Next, businesses need to find cleaner sources of energy without hurting their operations. When they can’t find cleaner substitutes, companies often pay others to reduce emissions or remove carbon from the atmosphere.

The task becomes even more difficult when companies begin the process of reducing so-called Scope 3 emissions – pollution caused by suppliers and customers. In oil companies, for example, Scope 3 would include emissions from gasoline-powered cars.

BlackRock, with $ 8.7 trillion in assets under management, including stakes in many companies, clearly faces a daunting task. The company doesn’t directly own most of the stocks or bonds it buys – it manages them for pension funds, other companies, and individual investors – which limits the degree of climate activism it can pursue. Additionally, most of its investment products track indexes like the S&P 500, which inevitably ends up managing stocks of fossil fuel companies.

Many Wall Street companies have pledged to achieve net zero emissions from their loans and other financial activities, but have not clarified whether this target applies to stocks and bonds they manage for their clients. BlackRock’s decision to include all the assets it manages could put pressure on other financial giants to make similar commitments, but it could put the fossil fuel industries and their political supporters at the forefront of Congress.

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A glimpse into America’s future: climate change is a problem for power grids

Huge winter storms plunged large parts of the central and southern United States into an energy crisis this week as frigid explosions in arctic weather crippled power grids and left millions of Americans without electricity in high temperatures dangerously cold.

The network outages were most severe in Texas, where more than four million people woke up to power outages Tuesday morning. Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday called for emergency reform of the Texas Electricity Reliability Council, saying the state’s power grid operator “has been anything but reliable for the past 48 hours.”

Analysts have started to identify some key factors behind the Texas network outages. Record-breaking cold weather prompted residents to ramp up their electric heaters and pushed demand for electricity beyond the worst-case scenarios predicted by network operators. At the same time, many of the state’s gas-fired power plants have been shut down in freezing conditions, and some factories appear to be suffering from fuel shortages as demand for natural gas has increased across the country. Many Texas wind turbines also froze and stopped working, although that was only a small part of the problem.

The resulting power shortages have forced grid operators in Texas to impose rotating power cuts on homes and businesses, starting Monday, to prevent a wider system collapse. Separate regional networks in the Southwest and Midwest are also under serious strain this week.

The crisis has highlighted a deeper warning for power systems across the country. Power grids can be designed to cope with a wide range of harsh conditions – provided that grid operators can reliably predict future dangers. But as climate change accelerates, many power grids will face new and extreme weather events that go beyond the historical conditions for which these grids were designed, putting systems at risk of catastrophic failure.

Building resilient power grids in the face of increasingly wild and unpredictable weather conditions will be a huge challenge, experts said. In many cases, this can prove to be costly, although, as Texas shows, the costs of a network outage can also be extremely expensive.

“It’s basically a matter of how much insurance you want to buy,” said Jesse Jenkins, an energy systems engineer at Princeton University. “What makes this problem even more difficult is that we are now in a world where, especially with climate change, the past is no longer a good guide for the future. We need to prepare much better for the unexpected. “

Texas’ main power grid, which operates largely independently from the rest of the country, is primarily designed to deal with the state’s most predictable weather extremes: soaring summer temperatures that prompts millions of Texans to turn on their air conditioners at the same time.

Although freezing temperatures are rarer, grid operators in Texas have long known that demand for electricity can increase in the winter as well, especially after severe cold spells in 2011 and 2018 that drove millions of Texans to mount their electric heaters and put a strain on the system.

But this week’s winter storms, which buried the state in snow and ice, and led to record high temperatures, exceeded all expectations – and pushed the grid to its breaking point.

Texas grid operators had predicted that in a worst-case scenario, the state might need 67 gigawatts of electricity to handle a winter peak. But by Sunday evening, demand for electricity had exceeded 69 gigawatts. As temperatures dropped, many homes depended on older, inefficient electric resistance heaters, which used more energy.

The problems worsened from there, as freezing weather shut down power plants with a capacity of more than 30 gigawatts by Monday night. The vast majority of these outages occurred in thermal power plants, such as natural gas generators, as falling temperatures crippled plant operations and growing nationwide demand for natural gas seemed to leave some factories find it difficult to procure fuel. A number of state power plants were also offline for scheduled maintenance in preparation for the peak summer.

At times, the state’s wind farm fleet has also lost up to 5 gigawatts of capacity as many turbines froze in freezing conditions and stopped working.

“No power system model imagined that all 254 Texas counties would be subject to a winter storm warning at the same time,” said Joshua Rhodes, a state power grid expert at the University of Texas at Austin . “This puts a strain on the electricity grid and the gas grid, which supply both electricity and heat.”

In theory, experts say, there are technical solutions that can avoid such problems. But their installation can be expensive and the difficulty is to anticipate exactly when and where such solutions will be needed.

Wind turbines, for example, can be fitted with heaters and other devices so they can operate in freezing conditions – as is often done in the upper Midwest, where the cold is more common. Gas plants can be built to store the oil on site and burn the fuel if needed, as is often done in the Northeast, where natural gas shortages are more common. Grid regulators can design markets that pay extra to keep a fleet of standby power plants in reserve for emergencies, as is often the case in the Mid-Atlantic.

But all of these solutions cost money, and network operators are often reluctant to force consumers to pay extra for warranties if they don’t think it will be necessary.

“Building resilience often comes at a cost, and there is a risk of both underpaying but also overpaying,” said Daniel Cohan, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rice University. “It’s a difficult balancing act.”

In the coming months, as network operators and policymakers in Texas study this week’s winter storm, they may begin to wonder how and if the network could be hardened to withstand extremely cold temperatures. Are there aging infrastructures that are in urgent need of repair? Would it make sense to create more connections between the Texas power grid and other parts of the country to balance electricity supplies – a move the state has long resisted? Should homeowners be encouraged to install expensive backup batteries or more efficient heat pumps that consume less electricity? Should state electricity markets be altered to keep additional power plants in reserve?

One of the challenges is that climate change makes preparation more difficult. Overall, the state is warming as global temperatures rise, and cold weather extremes are becoming, on average, less frequent over time.

But some climatologists have also suggested that global warming could, paradoxically, lead to more winter storms like this week’s. Some research suggests that the warming of the Arctic is weakening the jet stream, the high-level air current that circles northern latitudes and generally holds back the icy polar vortex. This allows cold air to escape southward, especially when an additional warming explosion hits the stratosphere and warps the vortex. The result can be episodes of plunging temperatures, even in places rarely suffocated by frost.

But this remains an active topic of debate among climatologists, with some experts less convinced that polar vortex disturbances are more and more frequent, which makes it even more difficult for network planners to anticipate the dangers ahead.

Power utilities and grid operators across the country face similar issues as climate change threatens to intensify heat waves, droughts, floods, water shortages and other calamities, all of which could create new and unforeseen risks to the country’s power systems. Dealing with these risks will come at a cost: A recent study found that the South East alone may need 35% more electrical capacity by 2050 just to cope with the known dangers of climate change.

And the task of building resilience is becoming increasingly urgent. Many policymakers are increasingly promoting electric cars and electric heaters as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But as more of the national economy depends on reliable electricity flows, the cost of blackouts will become increasingly dire.

“It’s going to be a tall order,” said Emily Grubert, electrical systems expert at Georgia Tech. “We need to decarbonize our power systems so that climate change doesn’t get worse, but we also need to adapt to changing conditions at the same time. And the latter alone is going to be very expensive. We can already see that the systems we have today don’t handle this very well.

John Schwartz and Dave montgomery contribution to reports.

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Graphic video of Capitol attack leaves raw emotions but can’t change votes

“Metropolitan Police Department radio communications highlight how, during and after President Trump’s speech, Trump supporters descended on Capitol Hill and became increasingly violent. What you are about to hear has not been made public before. “” In another radio communication between Metropolitan Police officers, you can hear an officer declaring that there is a riot in the capital at 1:49 PM “” We see the view from inside as the crowd s ‘approaches outside and bangs the windows and doors. You can see that the rioters first smashed the window with the wooden beam you saw earlier, and a lone policeman inside responds and starts spraying the first man to enter, but is quickly overwhelmed. I want you to watch out for the first group of assailants to enter the building. The second man through the window wears full tactical body armor and carries a baseball bat. Others wear riot shields. Among this group are members of the Proud Boys, some of whom, like Dominic Pezzola, who was recently charged with federal conspiracy, we will discuss later. In this security footage, you can see Agent Goodman running around to respond to the initial breach. Officer Goodman walks past Senator Mitt Romney and orders him to turn around to get to safety. On the first floor, just below them, the crowd had already started looking for the Senate chamber. Officer Goodman went down to the first floor. On the left side of the video, just inside the hallway, is the door to the Senate Chamber. And watch how Officer Goodman provokes rioters and deliberately pulls them away from the Senate Chamber door and towards the other officers waiting in the hallway. The rioter seen carrying a baseball bat in this video is the same one we saw a few moments ago smashing the first floor window. While all of this was going on, Vice President Pence was still in the room near the Senate Chamber. It was not until 2:26 p.m. that he was evacuated to safety. This next security video shows this evacuation. His movements are represented by the orange dot in our model – the red and blue dots represent where the crowd and Officer Goodman were, and where Officer Goodman led the crowd away from the chamber, there is moments. You can see Vice President Pence and his family quickly coming down the stairs. The Vice President turns around briefly as he walks down. At about the same time that Capitol Police announced that the Capitol had been violated, President Pelosi’s staff responded to the call for safety. As you can see here, staff leave their offices, walk through the hallways, then enter through a door on the right side. It’s the outer door to a conference room, which also has an inner door that they’ve barricaded with furniture. Staff then hid under a conference room table in this interior room. This is the last member of staff to enter and barricade themselves inside the inner office. After only seven minutes of barricading themselves, and the last member of staff entering through the door on the right, a group of rioters entered the hallway outside. And once inside, the riders have carte blanche in the loudspeaker of the Maison’s offices. In this security video, watch out for the door we saw these staff members come in and enter. One of the rioters, you can see, throws his body against the door three times until he breaks that outer door. Fortunately, facing the inner door, he moves on. “This security footage, which has no sound, shows a close-up of the Trump crowd as they make their way to the second floor of the House chamber to stop the vote count. This security video shows Ashli ​​Babbitt, followed by other members of the crowd, turning the corner towards the hall doors of the House where the members were leaving. This 2:56 p.m. security video shows the crowd in the House of Representatives wing on the second floor of the Capitol. The insurgents who are still inside the building are fighting with the police, who are overwhelmed and try to get them out. In this security video, you can see how the Capitol Police created a line and blocked the hallway with their bodies to prevent the rioters down the hall from reaching you and your staff. Additional security footage shows how Chief Schumer and members of his protection team crashed into the crowd. They arrived a few meters from the rioters and had to turn around. Going up the ramp with its detail, it will soon be out of sight. Seconds later, they come back and run down the hall, and the officers immediately closed the door and used their bodies to keep them safe. Here is an audio recording of DC Metropolitan Police Department radio traffic depicting the violence. “In a separate radio recording of the Metropolitan Police Department, you can hear a policeman when he realizes that the insurgents have passed the police line.” “A few hours after the members of the House and Senate left this area, on the west facade of the building, the crowd continued to grow, continued to beat the officers as they tried to enter. In this news Security video, you can see the mob attacking officers with a crutch, hockey stick, megaphone and a Trump flag.

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Democrats press stimulus as Biden signals openness to change

But he added: “We can target the number better – I’m okay with that.”

It was part of a two-pronged strategy that Biden and the Democrats are using to speed up the relief program: showing Republicans they have the votes to pass an ambitious plan with only Democrat support, but offer to negotiate some details in the hopes of gaining Republican support.

Later on Wednesday, the president met for an hour and a half at the White House with the main Democrats in the Senate. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, walked out of the meeting, saying there was “a universal agreement on which we must be bold.”

“We want to do it in a bipartisan way, but we have to be strong,” said Mr Schumer. “We cannot lag, we cannot delay, we cannot dilute, because the problems this nation is facing and the opportunities we can bring to them are so vast.

Some Republicans have argued that the next round of stimulus checks should go to Americans who need them most. Under Mr. Biden’s plan, the full payment of $ 1,400 would be limited to people earning no more than $ 75,000 per year, but those with higher incomes would receive smaller checks.

The president’s signal that he was open to compromise on the issue came days after he met 10 Republican senators in the White House who were seeking a $ 618 billion package that they believed could win bipartisan support. Their proposal calls for checks of up to $ 1,000 that would go only to individuals earning less than $ 50,000 per year, with full payment limited to those with annual income of $ 40,000 or less.

Republicans, however, seemed united against the plan unless Mr. Biden made any significant concessions.

“If there are no changes, why don’t I think a Republican will vote for his proposal,” said Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, a member of the group that met Mr. Biden on Monday.

As for the $ 15 minimum wage included in Mr. Biden’s plan, Mr. Romney has said categorically, “This will not pass.

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Nature doesn’t get a paycheck. Now there is a movement to change that.

The global system is based on buying and selling, but often no one pays for the most basic goods and services that support life – water to drink, soil to produce food, clean air to breathe, rainforests that support life. regulate the climate.

Continuing to ignore the value of nature in our global economy threatens humanity itself, according to an independent report on biodiversity and the economy, commissioned by the UK government and released on Tuesday. The study, led by Partha Dasgupta, an economist at the University of Cambridge, is the first comprehensive review of its kind.

“Even though we have enjoyed the fruits of economic growth, the demand we have made on nature’s goods and services has for a few decades exceeded its ability to deliver them in a sustainable manner,” said Dasgupta. “The gap has widened, threatening the lives of our descendants.”

For many people, nature has an intangible or spiritual value that is impossible to measure, the report notes. But the services of nature to humans have been taken for granted in our global economy, in large part because they are generally free. Humans are farming, fishing, poaching, logging, mining and burning fossil fuels so quickly that we have caused a collapse in biodiversity. As many as a million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction, and world leaders are failing to act.

Beyond the intangible losses that occur when a species disappears, this erosion of biodiversity poses tangible threats to humanity.

“Just as diversity within a portfolio of financial assets reduces risk and uncertainty, diversity within a portfolio of natural assets increases nature’s resilience to withstand shocks,” Mr. Dasgupta. “Globally, climate change and Covid-19 are striking expressions of nature’s loss of resilience.”

In economic terms, the report reframes nature itself as an asset. It offers a new business model for leaders around the world to perform calculations that take into account the benefits of nature, such as how wetlands protect themselves from flooding and peatlands store large amounts of carbon.

“What the Dasgupta report does really well is highlight the value of what Mother Nature gives us without charging a salary,” said Matthew E. Kahn, environmental economist at Johns Hopkins University. “When you go to Starbucks, Starbucks wants to get paid for that cup of coffee. Mother Nature provides services, but she does not request payment streams. “

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Prince Charles and David Attenborough all spoke when the report was released on Tuesday, praising the project and calling for action.

“It is sheer madness to continue on this path,” said Prince Charles. “Sir Partha Dasgupta’s founding review is a call to action that we must heed, ladies and gentlemen, it behooves us and we must not fail.”

The solution begins, says the report, by understanding that our economies are rooted in nature, not outside of it. We need to change the way we measure economic success, he insists, because gross domestic product does not take into account the depreciation of assets, including environmental ones. “As a primary measure of our economic success,” the authors wrote, “it therefore encourages us to pursue unsustainable economic growth and development.”

International agreements are needed to manage certain environments on which the entire planet relies, the report says. It calls on leaders to explore a system of payments to nations for the conservation of critical ecosystems like tropical rainforests, which store carbon, regulate climate and nurture biodiversity. Charges could be levied for the use of ecosystems outside national borders, for example for high seas fishing, and international cooperation could prohibit fishing in environmentally sensitive areas.

The report’s release precedes a United Nations meeting on biodiversity later this year; environmentalists hope it will result in an international agreement to deal with biodiversity loss similar to the Paris agreement on climate change. The United States is the only state in the world, other than the Vatican, that is not a party to the underlying United Nations treaty on biodiversity.

Conservation groups applauded the report.

“The idea that we are part of nature and that natural capital is an asset that must be managed in a sustainable manner will come as no surprise to Indigenous communities who have valued nature through the ages,” said Brian O ‘Donnell, director of the Campaign for The Wild. “But, for those who have adopted economic systems based on unlimited growth, there is a need to fundamentally rethink how ‘progress’ is valued and measured.”

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The Democratic Party comes to power in 2021 – and overflowing with money, for a change

“The party rarely invests in places where there might be a future race, a future battlefield,” she said, designating Texas and North Carolina as states for more investment after Mr. Biden toppled Arizona and Georgia in November and Democrats won Senate seats in both states. The hopes of Democrats in Texas and North Carolina failed in 2020 at the presidential, Senate and House levels.

As a sign of confidence, Mr Biden retains some of the same senior staff at the DNC, including Sam Cornale, who is elevated to the position of executive director. Mary Beth Cahill, a longtime member of the party Mr Biden picked as the party’s chief executive in mid-2020, also remains a senior adviser.

Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, former campaign manager for Mr Biden and now deputy chief of staff, said the president and the DNC enjoyed a “historically close partnership” last year that will continue. Mr. Biden “is committed to investing in the continuing education of the party and collaboration with the DNC,” she said.

The Republican National Committee will also file its financial disclosures on Sunday as party officials take on the complex task of disentangling its finances and operations from those of Mr. Trump. In the aftermath of Mr. Biden’s victory, the RNC raised more than $ 250 million in tandem with Mr. Trump as it promoted baseless conspiracy theories of widespread voter fraud; the party’s share was 25 percent of donations in December.

As for Mr. Harrison, he will most likely face immediate and increased demands for financial assistance now that the party’s resources are public. A senior party official pointed out that a significant portion of the money is locked in limited accounts for three purposes: legal fights, construction needs and conventions, including about 90% of the $ 40 million. remaining to be transferred from the joint account with Mr. Biden.

Mr Dean, who spoke to Mr Harrison this week, urged him to disregard requests from the Main Democrats in Congress, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, when ‘they inevitably ask for money to support particular candidates. He said the key was to focus on investments that last beyond individual campaigns.

“This money has to go outside the ring road,” Dean said. “Schumer and Pelosi are going to want to keep him inside the Beltway – and the answer is no.”

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Video: Biden signs decrees to fight climate change

new video loaded: Biden signs executive orders to deal with climate change



Biden signs executive orders to deal with climate change

On Wednesday, President Biden signed a series of executive orders aimed at tackling climate change through job creation, and included a “ pause ” in leasing fossil fuels.

To summarize this decree, it is about jobs, well paid union jobs. It’s about workers, about rebuilding our economy better than before. It’s a whole-of-government approach. Place climate change at the center of our domestic, national and foreign security policy. It advances conservation, revitalizes communities and cities and on farmland, and ensures environmental justice. Our plans are ambitious, but we are America. The first order I sign is to fight the climate crisis at home and abroad. The next, restoring confidence in government through science and integrity and evidence-based policy making. And the latter is the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology – establishing.

Recent episodes of United States and politics


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Video: Watch live: Biden makes remarks on climate change

TimesVideoWatch Live: Biden delivers remarks on climate change President Biden to sign executive actions on tackling climate change and creating jobs through science.

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How Biden’s climate ambitions could change America’s global footprint

John Kerry, America’s new climate change envoy, has spent the past few days repeatedly telling world leaders that the United States is ready to help the world “rise to its ambition” to fight global warming. However, it could mean big changes for America’s role in the world.

Foreign policy experts say the Biden administration’s efforts must go far beyond returning to the Paris Agreement, the global pact of nearly 200 governments aimed at slowing climate change. Tackling climate change will require a reassessment of everything from US priorities in the Arctic to helping fragile countries cope with the fallout from climate risks.

“It changes the posture of defense, it changes the posture of foreign policy,” said John D. Podesta, a former official in the Obama administration. “It’s starting to drive a lot of decision-making in foreign policy, diplomacy and development policy.”

The first acknowledgment of this change is expected Wednesday, with the White House asking intelligence agencies to produce a national intelligence estimate on climate security and asking the Defense Secretary to do a climate risk analysis of Pentagon facilities and facilities. .

“The fight against climate change can, and will be, a central pillar of the Biden administration’s foreign policy,” said Meghan O’Sullivan, who served as deputy national security adviser under President George W. Bush and now leads the Energy Geopolitics Project at Harvard Kennedy School. “It means injecting climate and environmental issues into our trade policies, our foreign aid programs, our bilateral discussions and even our military readiness.”

Mr. Kerry, a senior member of President Biden’s National Security Council, is tasked with leading this change. Here are four big things to watch out for in the weeks and months ahead.

On the first day of his mandate, Mr. Biden began the process of reintegrating the Paris Agreement. Now comes the hard part: The United States, which is responsible for most of the greenhouse gases that have warmed the planet since the industrial age, must set specific targets to reduce its own emissions by 2030 – and policies to reach them.

Greenpeace has called for a 70% reduction in emissions from 2010 levels, while the World Resources Institute and other US advocates have pushed for around 50%.

This puts Mr. Kerry in an awkward position. More ambitious targets would give it more weight over other countries before the next global climate negotiations, scheduled for November in Glasgow. But setting national emissions reduction targets will not be so easy politically, especially with a divided Senate.

In a speech to U.S. mayors on Saturday, Kerry said the administration would seek to strike a balance between the ambitious and the realistic. “We have to go to Glasgow with reality and we have to go to Glasgow with strength,” he said.

The climate is perhaps one of the few areas of cooperation in an increasingly strained relationship between Washington and Beijing. Both countries are the world’s largest emitters and the world’s largest economies, and without ambitious measures from both, there is no way for the world to slow warming.

Mr Podesta said the Biden administration should create “a protected path in which other issues do not close the conversation on climate change.”

China is also ahead in some ways. Its president, Xi Jinping, said last September that Beijing aims to be carbon neutral by 2060, which means that it plans to capture its carbon emissions or offset them by buying credits for green projects like tree planting programs.

Mr Kerry described China’s target for 2060 as “insufficient”.

It is not for nothing that Mr Kerry’s first overtures as climate envoy have been made to European leaders. Its best chance to put pressure on Beijing is to do so alongside the other great world economy: the European Union.

Mr. Kerry has repeatedly reiterated his intention to “raise the ambition” of all countries. The United States has a few diplomatic sticks and carrots at its disposal.

Mr. Kerry could use a bilateral trade deal between the United States and Mexico, for example, to persuade Mexico to open up to US investment in clean energy projects. He could encourage US private investment to encourage India to move away from coal and accelerate renewable energy.

And it could channel U.S. development assistance to help countries switch to a green economy – it’s not something Washington is known for, as Kelly Sims Gallagher, a former head of the Obama administration.

“For the United States to be seen as a country that helps vulnerable countries become resilient and enable low-carbon development, in effect promoting low-carbon development, would gain us a lot of goodwill,” said Dr Gallagher, now a professor at the Fletcher School at Tufts University. “It would be a major turnaround.”

Climate advocates have called on the Biden administration to ensure that development aid is channeled to help vulnerable countries adapt to climate change and to work with allies in Europe to encourage developing countries to build clean energy projects instead of polluting coal plants.

Few details have emerged from the White House on how to use US money to advance climate goals abroad. Mr. Kerry only said that the United States, having reneged on its $ 2 billion commitment to the United Nations-backed Green Climate Fund, would “honor” its financial commitment to help vulnerable countries cope with climate risks. .

The elephant in the room of a climate-focused White House is what to do with US relations with Saudi Arabia.

The geopolitics of energy had already changed. The United States had gradually become less dependent on Middle Eastern oil, thanks to the shale boom in their country. A climate-focused White House should accelerate change.

“We have the opportunity to rethink and reset our relationship in the Middle East because of this,” said Dr Gallagher. “Climate change is an additional factor.”

Barely had Mr Biden been elected when the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia unveiled plans for a car-free city.

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Biden, along with powerful allies and enemies, targets climate change

WASHINGTON – As President Biden prepares on Wednesday to launch an ambitious effort to address climate change, powerful and surprising forces are deployed behind his back.

Automakers come to accept that much higher fuel economy standards are their future; major oil and gas companies have said some greenhouse pollution reduction measures lifted by former President Donald J. Trump should be reimposed; Shareholders demand that companies recognize and prepare for a warmer, more volatile future, and a youth movement is pushing the Democratic Party to make efforts to tackle the problem.

But what might well stand in the way of the president is the political intransigence of senators from fossil fuel states on both sides. An equally divided Senate has given enormous power to any senator, and one senator in particular, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, who will lead the Senate Energy Committee and who has come to the Senate as an advocate. of the coal industry of his State.

Undoubtedly, signals from the planet itself confer urgency on the cause. Last year was the hottest year on record, capping the hottest decade on record. Already, scientists say the irreversible effects of climate change have started to spread across the world, from record wildfires in California and Australia to rising sea levels, widespread droughts and more severe storms. .

“President Biden has called climate change the No. 1 problem facing humanity,” said Governor Jay Inslee of Washington. “He understands only too well that responding to this test requires nothing less than a large-scale mobilization of US government, business and society.”

Mr. Biden has already endowed his government with more people affected by climate change than any president before him. On his first day in office, he joined the Paris Agreement on climate change.

But during the campaign, he tried to follow a tricky line on fracking for natural gas, saying he would stop it on public land but not on private property, where most of it takes place.

A round of executive action slated for Wednesday includes stopping new oil and gas leases on federal lands and waters, a move that is sure to annoy the industry. But that would not prevent the drilling of fossil fuels. In 2019, more than 26 million acres of land in the United States was already leased to oil and gas companies, and last year the Trump administration, pressed to exploit the natural resources hidden beneath the land and public waters, has rented tens of thousands more.

If the administration honors these contracts, millions of public acres could be opened up for fossil fuel extraction over the next decade.

The administration needs to do “a lot, a lot more,” said Randi Spivak, who heads the public lands program at the Center for Biological Diversity.

Also on Wednesday, Biden is expected to make climate change a national security issue, ordering intelligence agencies to produce a national intelligence estimate on climate security and asking the Secretary of Defense to do a climate risk analysis of Pentagon facilities and facilities.

It will create a civilian “climate body” to mobilize people to work in conservation; create a task force to assemble a government-wide action plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and create several new commissions and positions in government focused on environmental justice and the creation of environmentally friendly jobs.

The real action will come when Mr. Biden moves forward with plans to restore and strengthen Obama-era regulations, repealed by the Trump administration, on the three biggest sources of greenhouse emissions. that warm the planet: vehicles, power plants and methane leaks from oil wells gas drilling.

It can take up to two years for the new rules to be put in place, and even then, without new congressional legislation, a future administration could simply overturn them again.

Broad legislation will be extremely difficult. Many of the same obstacles that blocked President Barack Obama ten years ago remain. Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell will most likely oppose policies that could hurt the coal industry in his state of Kentucky.

So will Senator Manchin, who campaigned for his seat with a TV commercial that featured him using a shotgun to fire a climate change bill Mr. Obama hoped to pass. Over the next decade, he proudly broke with his party over policies to reduce coal use.

“I have repeatedly insisted on the need for innovation and not elimination,” Senator Manchin said in a statement. “I am ready to work with the administration to advance technologies and climate solutions to reduce emissions while maintaining our energy independence.”

Senator Manchin is also opposed to ending the filibustering of the Senate. But, to change the rules of the Senate, Democratic leaders would need every Democratic vote. Without Senator Manchin, Mr. Biden would need significant Republican support.

“The executive branch has great potential to restore what Obama did and go beyond,” said Michael Oppenheimer, professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University.

But, he added, “if you want something that is going to stick, you have to go through Congress.”

To Mr. Biden’s advantage, some companies have turned to the friend of the enemy.

Mr Biden’s team is already drafting new national auto pollution standards – based on an agreement between the state of California and Ford, Honda, BMW, Volkswagen and Volvo – that would require passenger vehicles to meet average 51 miles per gallon of gasoline by 2026. Current Trump rules only require fuel economy of about 40 miles per gallon in the same amount of time.

And just two weeks after Mr Biden’s election victory, General Motors signaled that it was also ready to work with the new administration.

“President-elect Biden recently said, ‘I believe we can own the 21st century auto market again by switching to electric vehicles.’ At General Motors, we couldn’t agree more, ”wrote Mary Barra, GM of GM, in a letter to executives of some of the country’s largest environmental groups.

If passed, a fuel economy rule modeled after California’s system could immediately become the country’s biggest policy on greenhouse gas reductions.

Mr Biden’s team is also making plans to restore Obama-era rules on methane, a gas that warms the planet more than 50 times more potent than carbon dioxide, although it dissipates faster. . Last summer, when Mr. Trump rolled back those rules, oil giants BP and Exxon called instead for them to be tightened.

The new president has also found broad support for joining the Paris Agreement, a global agreement under which the United States pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 28% from the levels of 2005 by 2025.

Joining the agreement means honoring its commitments. Not only does the United States need to meet its current target (at the moment, it is halfway there), but it is also expected to soon set new, more ambitious commitments to phase out emissions by 2030.

ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Chevron have all issued statements supporting Mr Biden’s decision to join the group. Likewise, the United States Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute, which once backed a debunked study claiming the Paris Agreement would lead to millions of job losses.

“As policy is made by the administration, by members of Congress, we want to have a seat at the table,” said Neil Bradley, executive vice president and director of policy at the chamber of commerce.

Other leaders in the energy industry have said congressional action on climate change is long overdue, with many pushing for some kind of tax on oil, gas and carbon emissions to make pollution caused by global warming less economical.

“To have a clear price signal that says, ‘Hey, it’s more profitable for you to buy an electric car than another big truck’ is exactly what we want, and not someone in the government who decides to ban something, ”said Thad Hill, chief executive of Calpine, a Texas-based power generation company that also supports the goals of the Paris Agreement.

The tiny majority of Democrats is no guarantee of action. In the Senate, Democrats have 10 fewer votes out of the 60 needed to smash a filibuster who would almost certainly come with legislation that would replace coal and oil with energy sources such as wind, solar and nuclear power, which do not warm the planet.

In an interview Monday night on MSNBC, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, acknowledged how difficult a strong legislative response would be.

Instead, he called on Mr Biden to declare climate change a “national emergency.”

“Then he can do many, many things under the President’s emergency powers that would not have to pass – that he could do without legislation,” Senator Schumer said. “Now Trump used this emergency for a stupid wall, which was not an emergency. But if there has ever been an emergency, the climate is one.

Sen. John Barrasso, Republican from Wyoming, the nation’s largest coal-producing state, hit back: “Schumer wants the president to go it alone and produce more punitive regulations, raise energy costs, and cut even more American jobs. . “

Senator Thomas Carper of Delaware, chairman of the environment committee and one of Mr Biden’s oldest friends, said he would do whatever he could to put climate-friendly policies into legislation wider. Democrats hope a pandemic stimulus bill will include hundreds of billions of dollars for environmentally focused infrastructure, like Mr Biden’s plans to build 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations and 1.5 million energy efficient homes and housing.

Senator Carper also said he hoped to revive modest legislation that has in the past received bipartisan support, such as extending tax breaks for renewable energy sources, supporting the construction of new nuclear facilities and l ‘improvement of the energy efficiency of buildings.

“You can call it incrementalism,” Mr. Carper said. “But I call it progress.”

Christophe Flavelle contribution to reports.