The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) opened with calls for historic levels of action and collaboration. President Biden depicted the stark challenge facing the world in his remarks during the World Leaders Summit on the first day of COP26, stating, “[Climate change] is the challenge of our collective lifetimes – the existential threat, the 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.”
Highlights of U.S. Initiatives and Statements Announced
In the following days, with over 13 cabinet members in attendance at different points throughout the two-week conference, the United States announced several cross-agency landmark initiatives aimed at addressing the impact of climate change on developing countries.
- The President’s Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience (PREPARE): PREPARE is the largest U.S. commitment ever made to reduce climate impacts on those most vulnerable to climate change worldwide, and President Biden plans to work with Congress to provide $3 billion in adaptation finance annually by fiscal year 2024. Delivered through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. Development Finance Corporation (DFC), the State Department, and other agencies, this whole-of-government comprehensive framework addresses the increasing impacts of the global climate crisis and strives to help more than half a billion people in developing countries adapt to climate change by 2030.
- U.S.-China Joint Glasgow Declaration on Enhancing Climate Action in the 2020s: In addition to recalling their commitment to work together and with other countries to strengthen the implementation of the Paris Agreement, the United States and China agreed to cooperate to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, enhance methane emission control, reduce CO2 emissions, and support an ambitious and balanced outcome on mitigation, adaptation, and support. Moreover, both countries “recognize the importance of the commitment made by developed countries to the goal of mobilizing jointly $100 billion per year by 2020 and annually through 2025 to address the needs of developing countries.” The U.S. and China also plan to establish a Working Group on Enhancing Climate Action in the 2020s, which will meet regularly to address the climate crisis and advance the multilateral process.
- The Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM4C): Alongside 31 countries and 48 non-government partners, the United States and United Arab Emirates launched AIM for Climate. A pioneering initiative, AIM4C is focused on “increasing investment and enabling greater public-private and cross-sectoral partnerships, intended to raise global climate ambition, and underpin transformative climate action in the agriculture sector in all countries.” At COP26, President Biden announced that the U.S. will mobilize $1 billion in climate-smart agriculture and food systems innovation from 2021-2025.
- The Clean Energy Demand Initiative (CEDI): Launched by the State Department, CEDI seeks to support “countries and companies working together to advance shared clean energy goals by leveraging corporate clean energy commitments.” By serving as a platform for stakeholder engagement and country partnerships, CEDI will create a venue for companies and countries to signal investment potential and policy plans. Over 75 companies and private sector partners have expressed interest and this has the potential to unlock up to $67 billion in power infrastructure.
Quotes from Senior U.S. Officials
Throughout the conference, senior U.S. officials were joined by heads of state as well leaders from the private sector and the NGO community at panels where they discussed these new initiatives and reaffirmed the need for increased action and collaboration. A snapshot of senior U.S. officials’ commentary from COP26 is below:
President Joe Biden
- On supporting developing countries: “We’re also going to try to do our part when it comes to helping the rest of the world take action as well. We want to do more to help countries around the world, especially developing countries, accelerate their clean energy transition, address pollution, and assure the world we all must share a cleaner, safer, healthier planet. We have an obligation to help.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken
- On the threat climate poses: “Tackling the climate crisis isn’t the responsibility of any single agency or department in the U.S. Government because climate change doesn’t only threaten our economy, our infrastructure, or our national security; it’s a threat to all of them and more.”
USAID Administrator Samantha Power
- On the economic benefit of climate investments: “Every dollar invested in adaptation can yield, and you can choose your study, but anywhere from $2 to $10 in benefits. If we are doing a rational cost benefit analysis here, these are investments worth making.”
Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry
- On the essential role of private sector investment: “No government on the planet has enough money to be able to meet the challenge that I just described – $4 trillion [annually]… But thanks to unprecedented momentum that now exists from the private sector… I’ve never seen as much ambition, as much energy, as much focus, as much sense of urgency as we are feeling now. And private industry is bringing literally trillions of dollars to the table, so we all have to do more in order to put that money to work.”
In addition to a strong Administration presence, several Members of Congress attended COP26, including a bipartisan delegation led by Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), as well as delegations led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA).
The initiatives announced and the strong statements from Administration officials are important steps in supporting developing countries to respond to the disproportionate impact of climate crises. While much remains to be done, the next step will be supporting the implementation of these new initiatives.
Read more from the USGLC on COP26 and climate: