The recent virtual summit on climate change hosted by US President Joe Biden represents a turning point in the management of the issue. That it took place at all, along with much of what was said, confirms that the planet is starting to wake up and that America is taking center stage once more.
Biden’s appointment as his special envoy on climate change, John Kerry – a former senator, presidential candidate and secretary of state with a significant international presence who as Barack Obama’s foreign minister was responsible for steering the United States to the 2015 Paris Agreement – also sends the message that there is no time to lose.
Biden also warned that despite the many differences the US may have with certain countries – and China and Russia in particular – the threat to humanity and beyond from climate change is so grave that there is no room for division. People realize that we are all in the same boat in this battle.
The US president made an important commitment, meanwhile, to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030 and for the American electricity network to operate only with clean sources like solar and wind energy by 2035.
As the world’s biggest economy and responsible for placing the biggest burden on the global environment, along with China, the US has an obligation to take a leading role and assume its corresponding cost by adopting tough measures that may carry a heavy political price in the short term but will bring enormous benefits in the long term.
As far as Greece is concerned – and to the degree that it is concerned – it has shown particular sensitivity for the issue and is taking steps in the right direction. The Greek prime minister, for example, is firmly committed to decarbonizing power production despite criticism not just from unionists and political rivals, but also from some influential people who argue that this would increase Greece’s energy dependence on other countries.
The good news is that interest in the environment is no longer expressed just by a handful of fringe groups made up of dreamers and eco-warriors, but also by mainstream political parties and, what’s more, by conservative forces that tended to be less sensitive on such subjects. Greece is one of those countries where a center-right government is adopting forward-thinking policies to combat climate change, and it’s being recognized for doing so by its European partners. Of course, not all of the governing New Democracy party’s members are as progressive.
The next important step will be the adoption of a climate law, in line with any modern European state, and it is hoped that the government and the parties of the opposition will reach a consensus on the issue. If America can seek common ground with China for the good of the planet, then surely New Democracy can with Movement for Change and SYRIZA, as well as other parties, for the good of Greece.