Voting results in the United States are closely scrutinized in Egypt, where COP27 is taking place. In the aftermath of the midterm elections, where the Republicans were to take control of the House of Representatives by a short head on Wednesday, climate activists fear that this reversal will hinder the environmental efforts made by the Biden administration.
After his election, President Joe Biden displayed a firm desire to make the fight against climate change a priority.
A $370 billion climate plan was passed by the Democratic-majority US Senate last August, the biggest investment the United States has ever seen in the fight against climate change.
Some are worried that a Republican legislature or administration would work to reverse the new bill. However, that task would be complicated to achieve as the legislation has already been inscribed into law. The bill aims to reduce US greenhouse gas emissions by 40% in 2030 compared to 2005.
“Among the newly elected, there are great climate defenders, and even if the Republicans win in the end, they will not be able to backtrack on the climate law. They can just slow down and antagonize the Biden administration on certain points,” said Frances Colon, a former science and environmental adviser under the Obama administration and currently a member of a Democratic think tank.
The day before, the American special envoy for the climate, John Kerry, recalled that “the climate crisis does not only threaten our infrastructures, our economies or our security – it threatens all aspects of our daily life”.
He assured that regardless of the outcome of the vote, “President Biden is more determined than ever to continue what we are doing.” He also recognized his country’s “special responsibility” towards developing countries.
Joe Biden had pledged more than eleven billion dollars in aid to developing countries to fight climate change, but so far, only one billion has been approved by Congress.
Activists, in particular, fear that a Republican victory in the House could jeopardize Joe Biden’s pledge to contribute $11.4 billion of the $100 billion a year promised to help less developed countries reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change.
“It is very important that the Democrats are active in the coming weeks. They have until December, before the new Congress takes office, to put the promised money on the table,” urged Frances Colon, who also pointed out that “many climate champions have won in the states , governors, legislatures, etc.”
However, beyond the midterm elections, some observers of the COP27 climate negotiations are already looking to the US presidential election of 2024 and the possible candidacy of Donald Trump, the very man who, in 2017, withdrew the United States from the Paris Agreement, an international climate change treaty adopted at COP21 in France in 2015.
Washington then joined the treaty again under the Biden administration.
At the COP, climate defenders hope for new announcements when the US president visits the conferences on a scheduled express visit on Friday.
On the other hand, Chinese President Xi Jinping will not be attending the conference, even though China, followed closely by the United States, is the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter.
Cependant, China is ahead of the United States and played a key role with India, the world’s third largest emitter, at COP 26 to reduce the ambitions of the final declaration on the planned coal phase-out. The United States had already given up world leadership on the climate last year, but the strategy linked to the war in Ukraine, which consists of intensifying its production of fossil fuels, mortgages any national ambition.
Jean Su, program director at the Center for Biological Diversity, an American environmental group, estimated that “It would be a catastrophic mistake if President Biden did not seize this literally once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be the climate president the world needs him to be.”
The UN secretary-general said COP27 must make a “down payment” on climate solutions that address the scale of the problem.
Egypt called for comprehensive, timely, inclusive, and large-scale action on the ground.
According to experts, in addition to reviewing the implementation of the Paris Regulations, the conference must also see negotiations on some outstanding issues after Glasgow.