Worst-case scenarios climate scientists have warned about for decades – including crippling droughts, extreme heat waves, catastrophic wildfires and rising sea levels – are unfolding. At the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) in Egypt, I saw how the reality of our worsening climate crisis is changing the conversation.
The fossil-fuel industry and its allies can no longer credibly deny climate change, so they’ve pivoted to delay, distraction and obstruction. That agenda was on display at COP27: glitzy “green” Saudi exhibits, a Republican “climate solutions” group pimping natural gas and hundreds of embedded fossil-fuel industry delegates. There were attempts by “petro states” to weaken language in the COP27 document and undermine stronger decarbonization commitments in the developing world by stoking conflict over who should pay for “loss and damage.”
Thankfully, there’s growing momentum for climate action. COP27 buzzed with excitement about the Biden administration’s climate achievements, especially the Inflation Reduction Act’s $369 billion in clean energy and climate resiliency investments. Our indefatigable “special climate envoy” John Kerry worked tirelessly to lock in major deals to increase other countries’ ambition while demonstrating our commitment to helping developing nations decarbonize and adapt to climate impacts.
I’ve been to three COPs (Conferences of the Parties) during my time in Congress. My experiences run the gamut – navigating the anxiety of COP25 as we assured the world that America was “still in” even as Donald Trump wreaked havoc, managing skepticism at COP26 based on promises of climate action under new Democratic leadership and, now, cautious enthusiasm Because America is starting to deliver on our promises.
There is nothing simple about the path forward. Limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius requires transforming a global economy running on fossil fuels into one producing net-zero carbon pollution by mid-century. We must do this in a world riven by wars, disasters, geopolitical rivalries and mounting resentment that impoverished nations are bearing the brunt of a climate crisis caused mainly by wealthy nations. And this new climate-forward course must be in motion by the end of this decade.
Achieving these audacious goals requires a lot of things, none more important than American leadership. It felt good to hold our heads high knowing the US is back in a climate leadership position. The fact that we are fulfilling our promises helps other nations step up.The Inflation Reduction Act is the largest-ever climate action investment. Combined with our other policies and continued leadership from states, local governments and the private sector, it puts us on track to reduce US carbon pollution by 50% within this decade. It positions us to be the global leader in zero-emission technologies to transform the power, transportation and industrial sectors and reduce energy costs while creating millions of well-paying jobs.
Americans should be encouraged, but not complacent. We must do much more to help the developing world realize the benefits of clean energy while managing climate impacts. President Joe Biden’s administration is coming to the table with solutions like the PREPARE Plan to help developing countries, but I will keep pushing for more – including reforming international financial institutions and fully funding the global Green Climate Fund.
It’s all on the agenda at next year’s COP28, which is unfortunately being hosted by the United Arab Emirates, another petro state with a dubious human rights record. Climate progress requires navigating many hurdles – from the fossil-fuel industry’s greed and intransigence, to geopolitical conflicts, to the dissonance of negotiating climate deals with countries abusing human rights. In Egypt, our delegation pushed for climate action while candidly calling out human rights abuses. We’ll do the same next year.
The climate crisis continues to be my highest priority in Congress. But please don’t wait for Congress, the UN or anyone else. As consumers, investors and voters, we can all make climate-conscious decisions. Encourage climate action by local governments and support advocacy groups. If you have ideas on how to confront the challenges and opportunities of the climate crisis, send me a message at bit.ly/3EUtQkn.
Rep. Jared Huffman is a Democrat from San Rafael. He has represented Marin in the House of Representatives since 2012.