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Suddenly, the United States Is a Climate Leader

But considering the competition, that’s not saying much.

By , the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy.
U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy talks to Sen. Joe Manchin.
U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy talks to Sen. Joe Manchin.
U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy (left) talks to Sen. Joe Manchin during an event to celebrate the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington on July 11. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at where major carbon emitters are in reaching climate goals, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s meeting with Japan’s Yoshimasa Hayashi, and Senegal’s trip to the polls.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


The U.S. Is Leading a Slow Race on Climate

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at where major carbon emitters are in reaching climate goals, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s meeting with Japan’s Yoshimasa Hayashi, and Senegal’s trip to the polls.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


The U.S. Is Leading a Slow Race on Climate

After multiple false starts, the United States appears to be gaining momentum in reaching its climate goals.

News that Sen. Joe Manchin, a previous roadblock to climate legislation, will now support $369 billion in new energy and climate spending has changed the outlook. The money is set to incentivize a number of clean energy initiatives, from power plants to making electric cars cheaper.

There’s still plenty that could go wrong, and considering the price tag has drifted from trillions of dollars to today’s figure, the outcome is not set. Manchin could still backtrack; another unsteady Democratic senator, Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema, could also throw up opposition; and the House of Representatives may not agree with the Senate’s bill.

Even though it’s the biggest climate bill in U.S. history, it’s also not enough to meet the Biden administration’s goal of 50 percent fewer emissions by 2030. Without doing anything new, the United States was estimated to be on track to reduce emissions by 25 to 35 percent during that period, according to analysts at Rhodium Group. The new measures, according to a new Rhodium analysis, pushes that range higher to between 31 and 44 percent—but alongside state-level and executive action, that could push the United States up to between a 50 and 52 percent reduction.

That the goals are within reach is more than can be said for fellow polluting countries, very few of whom are on track to make changes of the same significance by the end of the decade. Out of the six largest polluting powers, who together make up over half of global carbon emissions, only the European Union is set to reach its stated climate goals, according to the Climate Action Tracker.

China is planning to do the opposite and will continue to increase its emissions until 2030, when it plans to begin reducing to full net zero in 2060, 10 years after most developed nations.

How many more tons of carbon China will emit between now and then depends on a number of factors, including what steps Beijing takes to pull back from its economic slowdown as well as how quickly it can benefit from investments in its clean energy sector. That industry is already set to break records again, as additions of solar and wind power are set to beat last year’s installations by a full 25 percent.

How India, the fourth-largest emitter, plans to transition to a net-zero future is only partly clear. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged last year to bring the country to net zero by 2070—but his government is almost a year behind in submitting its commitments to the United Nations.

Although India is making strides in clean energy adoption, more investment is needed. An analysis by Standard Chartered estimates the country will need $12 trillion in outside investment to reach net zero by 2060.

Russia, fifth on the emissions list, is also lagging. Unsurprisingly for a country so dependent on fossil fuel exports, its current plans don’t call for a winding down of sales but rather rely on its vast forests to offset its emissions.

Russia’s plans to double its negative emissions from forestry between 2030 and 2050 have been derided by climate analysts as a case of creative accounting; guidelines from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change call for only managed forests to be included in climate projections, but Russia’s inclusion of its wild forests has helped boost its numbers.

Whether Brazil takes dramatic steps to address its position as the sixth-largest emitter is likely to depend on the outcome of October’s presidential election. Like his far-right colleagues elsewhere, incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro has put climate action on the back burner. His challenger, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has a checkered past on the environment, but he has begun weaving climate action into his campaign strategy—copying successful candidates in the region like new Chilean President Gabriel Boric and Colombian President-elect Gustavo Petro.

Even if other countries are not moving quickly, the boost in U.S. climate support may make it easier for U.S. officials to make their case overseas. “You can’t preach temperance from a bar stool, and you can’t ask China, India, Brazil or other countries to cut emissions if we’re not doing it ourselves in a significant way,” U.S. Sen. Ed Markey told the New York Times.


Keep an Eye On

U.S.-Japan ties. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken hosts his Japanese counterpart, Yoshimasa Hayashi, for a bilateral meeting as well as talks under the auspices of the Japan-U.S. Economic Policy Consultative Committee. Blinken will continue his Asia focus into next week when he travels to Cambodia for a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations foreign ministers.

Ukraine’s grain. U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths said on Thursday that grain shipments from Ukraine could resume as soon as today but that details of the exact coordinates of shipping routes were still being finalized. Some commercial roadblocks have also emerged following the Ukraine-Russia deal, including insurance uncertainty for the vessels and finding sailors to crew them.

Human rights in Ethiopia. A three-person expert team dispatched to Ethiopia by the U.N. Human Rights Council is set to publish a communiqué on Saturday outlining the findings of a six-day investigation of human rights violations in the country. The trip is the first time the U.N.-appointed experts have visited the country since the Tigray conflict broke out in late 2020.

Senegal elections. Senegalese voters head to the polls on Sunday to participate in legislative elections, which had originally been postponed from 2019. As FP’s Nosmot Gbadamosi wrote in this week’s Africa Brief, a good result for President Macky Sall’s party, which holds an overall majority, could encourage him to run for a controversial third term in 2024.


Odds and Ends

The German city of Hanover appears to be taking threats to European gas supplies more seriously than others as it brings in a series of measures to cut energy consumption by 15 percent across the city.

Swimmers at public pools will only be able to access cold showers, public fountains and nighttime lighting will be switched off, and thermostats will be set at a maximum of 20 degrees Celsius (or 68 degrees Fahrenheit).

If the summer heat becomes too much, those showers may come in handy: Portable air conditioners are also banned under the new measures.

Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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