Biden administration: US must catch up to China on renewable energy to create jobs

Deirdre Shesgreen, USA TODAY
·3 min read

WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday framed climate change as both the biggest challenge and the biggest opportunity facing the United States.

“If we succeed, we will capitalize on the greatest opportunity to create quality jobs in generations,” Blinken said in a speech at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. “If America fails to lead the world on addressing the climate crisis, we won’t have much of a world left."

Blinken's remarks preview President Joe Biden's plan to host 40 world leaders for a virtual climate summit on April 22 and 23, from Russian President Vladimir Putin to French President Emmanuel Macron to Saudi King Salman.

This week's summit is meant to signal a renewed U.S. commitment to leading the global fight against climate change after four years in which the Trump administration played down the threat.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken testifies before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on "The Biden Administration's Priorities for US Foreign Policy" on Capitol Hill, March 10, 2021 in Washington, DC.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken testifies before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on "The Biden Administration's Priorities for US Foreign Policy" on Capitol Hill, March 10, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Biden is expected to announce new limits on U.S. emissions ahead of the summit. Scientists, environmental groups and some business leaders are calling on Biden to set a target that would cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% below 2005 levels by 2030.

Blinken did not offer any hints of where Biden would set the target. But he noted that while the U.S. has only 4% of the world's population, it generates nearly 15% of global emissions – making America the second biggest emitter of greenhouse gases after China.

He also noted that the U.S. has suffered more extreme weather events in recent months, from the cold wave that recently hit Texas to the wildfires that have ravaged California.

"We're running out of records to break," while the cost of climate change – in terms of money, jobs and lives – keeps escalating, he said.

Biden is already facing blowback from Republicans, who argue that moving away from fossil fuels will hurt U.S. competitiveness, cost American jobs and raise energy prices.

In his speech, Blinken framed the issue as a growing national security threat and said the U.S. is falling behind China in developing the technology needed to curb climate change.

"It's difficult to imagine the United States winning the long term strategic competition with China if we cannot lead the renewable energy revolution," he said. "But right now, we're falling behind.

He noted that China is the largest producer and exporter of solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, and electric vehicles.

"It holds nearly a third of the world’s renewable energy patents. If we don’t catch up, America will miss the chance to shape the world’s climate future in a way that reflects our interests and values, and we’ll lose out on countless jobs for the American people," he said.

American public opinion has shifted in favor of a more aggressive approach to addressing climate change. A majority of Americans say they favor a range of U.S. government actions to reduce the impacts of climate change, from tree planting initiatives to tougher fuel efficiency standards for vehicles, according to June 2020 Pew Research Center poll.

Contributing: Associated Press

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden administration: US must catch up to China on renewable energy