The case for American climate leadership

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Our international community is standing at a major crossroads. Unless global leaders put us on a path to net zero emissions by the middle of the century, all countries will face escalating impacts that know no national borders, including rising seas, devastating wildfires, punishing droughts and climate-fueled storms. That’s why this week, as President Joe Biden welcomes international heads of state to his Leaders Summit on Climate, I’m more hopeful than ever that America can lead again on climate action. Together, we can make progress on an emergency that’s harming families and workers around the world, with escalating costs for everyone.


Just as past presidents led our allies through major global crises, President Biden is poised to build a new era of American leadership to guide the rest of the world into a clean energy future, with good-paying jobs and technological innovation. America is strongest when we use all of our scientific knowledge and our can-do spirit to inspire other nations. As we work together to tackle a global crisis, we’ll also benefit from a tremendous upside for the health and well-being of American families and workers.


Just look at President Biden’s American Jobs Plan. While its generational investments would bolster our credibility abroad by moving us closer to critical emissions reduction goals, its immediate benefits would be felt right here in the United States: millions of good-paying American jobs; cleaner air in vulnerable communities; clean drinking water for every American.


President Biden has already shown his deep commitment to solving the climate crisis. On his first day in office, he took immediate action to bring the United States back into the Paris Agreement. His next steps — including the Leaders Summit, his announcement of a new set of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) and a renewed commitment to the global Green Climate Fund — will signal how far we can go in the near-term and in the decades ahead. Our task is urgent. In Congress, we’re ready to enact the president’s Build Back Better agenda, which gives us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rebuild our infrastructure, decarbonize our economy and secure environmental justice. As chair of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, I’m confident we can create the transformational change that young generations are demanding across the planet.


This historic moment facing President Biden is not too different from the one President Harry Truman faced in the aftermath of the Second World War. After the United States and the Allies defeated Nazi Germany and the Axis powers, President Truman saw a battered world abroad — and he immediately recognized that the prosperity of the United States was inexorably linked to the fates of other nations. That’s why, instead of bending to the forces of isolationism, the Truman Administration devised the Marshall Plan, a once-in-a-generation investment that helped rebuild Europe, connect our global economies and ensure prosperity both domestically and abroad. In what one historian called “an act of the most enlightened self-interest in history,” the Marshall Plan proved that America is strongest when we embrace the world around us. Today, President Biden has a similar opportunity to build a new model of shared prosperity, as we work together to advance clean energy and keep devastating climate consequences in check.


Clean energy provides one of the greatest opportunities in recent history to transform our world for the better. That’s why we’re seeing important progress in the private sector, including crucial clean energy investments and commitments from business leaders, automakers and utilities. The threat posed by climate change is matched only by the potential of a global clean energy economy, which can deliver progress on public health, racial justice, infrastructure resilience and global security. Reducing harmful emissions in one country means a healthier climate for every country, including the United States. And by leading the world on solutions, we can ensure America’s brightest days are still ahead — with incredible economic opportunities for all.


As President Biden meets with global leaders this week, he’s bringing the United States back to its rightful place on the world stage. President Biden has made the right choice, embracing this global challenge as an opportunity and building a new era of American leadership.