Energy & Environment

Biden warns of ‘existential’ climate threat at Glasgow summit

President Biden on Monday made the case for immediate and aggressive collective action to ward off the “existential threat” of climate change, telling world leaders that the next decade will be decisive in the fight against the impacts of global warming. 

In prepared remarks at the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, Biden argued that the globe is at an “inflection point” in the fight against climate change and countries have only a “brief window” to act.

“There’s no more time to hang back or sit on the fence or argue amongst ourselves,” Biden said. “This is the challenge of our collective lifetimes. The existential threat to human existence as we know it.”

“And every day we delay, the cost of inaction increases. So let this be the moment that we answer history’s call here in Glasgow. Let this be the start of a decade of transformative action that preserves our planet and raises the quality of life for people everywhere,” he continued. “We can do this. We just have to make a choice to do it.” 

Biden said that global warming is ravaging the U.S. and other countries by fueling wildfires, crop failures, flooding and record heat and drought. 

“We know that none of us cannot escape the worst of what’s yet to come if we don’t seize this moment,” he said.

Biden’s speech comes as his administration attempts to turn the page on several years of climate denial and inaction under former President Trump, with the U.S. seeking to regain credibility on the issue after pulling out of the Paris Agreement under Trump.

Biden on Monday insisted that his administration would demonstrate that the U.S. is “not only back at the table but, hopefully, leading by the power of our example.” He noted that he took executive action on his first day in office to rejoin the Paris climate accord, among other steps the administration is taking to transition to clean energy. He also hinted at announcements on other new initiatives in the coming days.

“My administration is working overtime to show that our climate commitment is action, not words,” he said. 

Ahead of Biden’s speech at the conference on Monday, the White House unveiled its long-term strategy for achieving “net zero” greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050, under which the country will seek to eliminate or offset its climate pollution. 

Biden’s speech comes amid uncertainty over just how much climate action will be accomplished in the U.S. as Democrats debate the president’s sweeping domestic agenda. 

The White House has put together a framework for Biden’s climate and social spending bill that includes $555 billion in climate spending, but a cornerstone program has been cut from Biden’s agenda amid opposition from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), and another major proposal remains at risk. 

Democrats appear to be coalescing behind the compromise framework but are still haggling over some of the details. Biden during a news conference Sunday expressed hope that the bill would pass the House over the coming week. 

The infrastructure bill, negotiated with a bipartisan group of senators, includes funding for expanding electric vehicle charging stations and making infrastructure more resilient to the effects of climate change and extreme weather. 

In his speech, Biden touted the White House framework, particularly its electric vehicle tax credits, incentives for clean energy manufacturing and tax credits to help people add solar panels to their homes and make them more resilient to climate change. 

“My Build Back Better framework will make historic investments in clean energy, the most significant investment to deal with the climate crisis that any advanced nation has made ever,” he said. 

Biden made the case that transitioning to clean energy was not only a moral imperative but also an economic one, saying the climate crisis presents an opportunity to create jobs in new industries and help spur economic growth.

The president also invoked high global energy prices in making the case for the shift to clean sources, arguing that they underscored the need for the global community to diversify energy sources so people are not over reliant on one source. 

“We must view it as a call to action,” Biden said. “High energy prices only reinforce the urgent need to diversify sources, double down on clean energy development and adopt promising new clean energy technologies so we … don’t remain overly reliant on one source of power to power our economies and our communities.” 

Tags Donald Trump Joe Biden Joe Manchin

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