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UK News

Christian climate campaigners: Biden victory means win for climate crisis fight

by Tola Mbakwe

Climate change campaigners believe there's a new horizon in the fight to make the world a cleaner and greener place after Mr Joe Biden's US presidential election win.

Just days after the US left the global Paris deal on climate change, Americans have elected a president who has promised to tackle the "existential threat" rising temperatures pose.

Mr Biden's climate plan for the US, which as the world's second largest polluter accounts for 15 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, includes a goal to reach "net zero" emissions by 2050.

That would bring the US in line with countries such as the UK, which has a legal target of net zero by 2050, with huge cuts to emissions and any remaining pollution offset by measures such as planting trees.

Andy Lester from Christian environmental charity A Rocha UK told Premier it was a Mr Biden winning the White House is a huge relief.

"I think that one of the greatest sadnesses when Trump took an office was that he was going to pull out to the climate change agreement, which finally went through on ironically on November 4th this year. And not only did that take America away from its commitments to reducing greenhouse gases, but many other countries around the world were saying, 'Well, if America is not going to do anything, and why should we?' So that was the implication of Trump. 

"Biden, on the other hand, within an hour of acknowledging that he was president-elect, said loud and clear  he was going to put America back firmly in the group of countries dedicated to strong climate commitments and goals and ambitious targets. And the fact that he's seen that as one of his key priorities is very, very exciting indeed, and will be an inspiration to many who've been fighting for this for the last few years."

Domestically Mr Biden has pledged 2 trillion dollars over four years as part of efforts to push towards 100 per cent clean electricity by 2035, drive take up of zero-emissions vehicles and making buildings more efficient.

Potentially without Democratic control of the Senate, with two races to be decided in run-offs in January, it is not clear how much Mr Biden will be able to achieve at home.

But he has promised a suite of immediate executive actions that do not require agreement from Congress, such as fuel standards, conserving land and curbing methane from oil and gas operations.

Dr Kat Kramer leads Christian Aid's climate efforts said Mr Biden has great momentum: "Since Trump came to office four years ago we have seen the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's reports getting huge attention across the world, galvanising the likes of Extinction Rebellion and the climate school strikers.  

"We've seen countries announcing plans to decarbonise with net-zero emission goals set in Europe, China and Japan. And we've seen a groundswell of subnational climate action taking place in the United States at the state and city level which will now be given new support from a Biden White House.

"It's now essential that Biden ensures the US makes up for lost time and moves quickly to implement green recovery policies which will accelerate the shift to a cleaner and safer world for all."

He has the support of the majority of Americans, who polling suggests see climate change as a serious problem, want the government to do more to address it, and back policies including developing renewable energy.

Mr Biden has also signalled a major diplomatic and trade push on climate, promising to rally other countries to more ambitious action and locking in international agreements to reduce emissions in global shipping and aviation.

He has also said he wants to see measures to stop other countries "cheating" on their climate commitments, with a warning of fees or quotas on carbon-intensive goods imported from countries such as China, and moves to stop it subsidising coal exports.

Lester said the global impact of the US's view on climate change cannot be underestimated. 

"People say 'when America sneezes, other countries catch colds'. And it remains true that people are either inspired or turned away from America depending on their actions. 

"What America does over the next four years with is likely to have a profound impact on the journey of countries like Brazil, and India, nations, which at the moment are not committed to a strong climate agreement, but in a sense, are taking a lead from America."

Listen to Premier's interview with Andy Lester here:

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