The United States president-elect Joe Biden is attempting to show he is much greener than his climate-denying predecessor Donald Trump.
Biden is pushing the message that he wants the US to rejoin the Paris Agreements.
This is a set of advisory limits agreed by most countries in 2015. It sets a long-term goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels.
And Biden is also committed to holding a US climate summit within the first 100 days of office.
But the Democrat’s claims to be taking climate catastrophe seriously are beginning to unravel.
Biden has consistently backed fracking, although he now claims he wants to see it banned on federal land.
As over 90 percent of fracking in the US takes place on private land, it amounts to little more than an empty gesture.
Fossil fuel money was hiding behind Biden’s bid to win the White House.
In September he joined a fundraiser organised by Andrew Goldman, co-founder of fracking firm Western LNG.
Their support for each other is no surprise.
Fossil fuel magnate Goldman served as an adviser to Biden when he was in the senate and was a director of finance for his 2008 campaign.
Another big clue to the direction of Biden’s presidency lies in who he is appointing.
Biden appointed friend of the fossil fuel industry and Democrat congressman Cedric Richmond in a key climate position.
He’ll serve as head of the White House Office of Public Engagement. There he is “expected to serve as a liaison with the business community and climate change activists.”
But he’s far from a neutral liaison—Richmond has trousered over £256,000 in donations from oil and gas firms in his ten years in congress.
Despite representing seven of the ten most air-polluted areas of the country, he’s voted to increase fossil fuel exports and promote pipeline development.
The Sunrise Movement, a grassroots group that has pioneered the Green New Deal climate proposals, said Richmond “stayed silent while polluters poisoned his own community”.
Biden isn’t an out-and-out climate denier like Trump, so it can appear like his victory is a win for action on climate change.
But his tenure will delay the action needed to fight the climate crisis. Instead of supporting the Green New Deal he has pledged a series of weaker proposals. He claims he wants to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions across the US and create carbon-free electricity, both by 2035.
Some of Biden’s promises include improving energy efficiency in buildings, promoting electric vehicle manufacture and environmental conservation projects.
But this all comes far, far too late.
No one at the top of the system is motivated by concern for the climate. They can be temporarily forced to go against some fossil fuel firms’ wishes if there is enough pressure from below.
And there have been waves of large protests across the US over the climate.
But only system change can save the planet from climate catastrophe.
A survey conducted in mid-October by the New York Times magazine found that 90 percent of voters who wanted Biden to win were worried about climate change.
Biden’s claims to want to protect the environment flow from a deadly attempt to walk a tightrope between the interests of voters and fossil fuel companies.
That’s why climate promises from the next occupant of the White House should be viewed with scepticism.
They are coming from someone desperate to keep the polluting system of capitalism intact.
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