Climate briefs: The view from the U.S. and Europe

    Climate briefs US and Europe on Pink Petro

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    Climate change is coming to the forefront of public discussion all around the world. Climate-related issues have been driving policy formation in two of the world’s largest economies. Following are climate briefs for the US and Europe.

    United States

    In the United States, climate issues were front and center in the build-up to the 2020 presidential election. In a seven-hour forum televised by CNN, 10 of the candidates competing for the Democrat Party’s nomination talked about how they intended to combat climate change.

    Significantly, all 10 voiced support for a key tenet of the Green New Deal put forward by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) earlier this year – namely, making the United States 100% carbon neutral by 2050. However, each candidate took a slightly different approach towards this goal.

    Warren sees climate change as an all-encompassing issue

    For example, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said she had incorporated climate change mitigation into every aspect of her policy prescriptions rather than focusing on the issue in isolation. Meanwhile, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) drew on her own experience as a public prosecutor and talked about taking legal action against major polluters, and Julian Castro, the former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, described climate change as a civil rights issue.

    Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has embraced the Green New Deal
    Sanders has embraced the Green New Deal

    Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) took the most radical approach. He not only appropriated the name of the Green New Deal for his own policy solution but also proposed sweeping measures such as making the transportation and power generation sectors carbon-neutral by 2030, establishing a climate resilience fund, and prosecuting corporate polluters on criminal charges.

    Sanders also proposed to spend the most on climate mitigation – $16.3 billion. By contrast, the other candidates’ programs carried price tags of $1-10 trillion.

    Climate briefs European Union

    Meanwhile, the European Union’s executive arm has taken a step towards developing its own version of the Green New Deal. On September 10, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, charged Frans Timmermans, one of her vice presidents, with heading up climate-related initiatives. She did so by appointing Timmermans, a Social Democrat from the Netherlands, to the post of executive vice president responsible for the EU’s climate change directorate, known as DG Clima.

    Climate briefs - Von der Leyen wants Timmermans to develop a carbon-neutral strategy for the EU
    Von der Leyen wants Timmermans to develop a carbon-neutral strategy for the EU

    Von der Leyen said that Timmermans’ main task would be to lead the development of the strategies needed to help the EU reach carbon-neutral status by 2050. “At the heart of it is our commitment to become the world’s first climate-neutral continent,” she said in a mission letter outlining Timmermans’ duties. “Those who act first and fastest will be the ones who grab the opportunities of the ecological transition.”

    Timmermans' first task will be to draft a climate neutrality law
    Timmermans’ first task will be to draft a climate neutrality law

    On a practical level, the mission letter directed the new executive vice president to draw up a climate neutrality law during his first 100 days in office. It also called on him to take all measures necessary to ensure that the EU cut emissions levels by 50% on 1990 levels by 2030.