Transitioning away from environment-killing fossil fuels isn’t just good for the planet — it’s also a potential cash cow, President Biden argued Friday as he hosted world leaders, billionaires and labor honchos for the final part of his climate summit.
Unlike Thursday’s first session, which focused on the urgent need to curb greenhouse gas emissions and turn the tide on climate change, Friday’s powwow was upbeat and intent on presenting the financial upside of making economies green.
“Today’s final session is not about the threat of climate change, it’s about the opportunity that addressing climate change provides,” Biden said from a TV studio-style set in the White House East Room built for the virtual summit. “It’s an opportunity to create millions of good-paying jobs around the world in innovative sectors.”
In Biden’s telling, jobs and economies will flourish if money’s pumped into sectors like electric car manufacturing, green power grid construction and solar and wind energy production. He also vowed there’s promising economic opportunities in climate-friendly farming and agriculture and “fields that we haven’t even conceived of yet.”
“When we invest in climate resilience and infrastructure, we create opportunities for everyone,” he said.
There to back Biden up was former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, his one-time presidential rival, who has poured millions of dollars into efforts to replace coal-fired power plants with increasingly cheaper renewable energy.
“We can’t beat climate change without a historic amount of new investment,” Bloomberg said.
Bill Gates, another billionaire philanthropist heavily invested in renewable energy production, also spoke at the summit, as did leaders of major steelworker and electrical unions, whose members would play a big role in Biden’s plan for building a more climate-friendly economy.
Leaders of other countries spoke as well, offering perspective on how they’ve already jump-started green economy initiatives.
“We cannot win this fight against climate change unless we go globally to fight it together,” said Kenyan President Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, whose country has in recent decades transitioned from coal-burning plants to become a leading producer of geothermal energy despite limited financial resources.
While the private sector plays a major role in redirecting economic tides, Biden’s push for sweeping green investment is heavily contingent on Congress passing his American Jobs Plan.
The $2.3 trillion blueprint would overhaul infrastructure nationwide, from public transit systems and highways to housing and manufacturing, creating millions of new jobs in the process.
But Biden faces a rigid wall of opposition from congressional Republicans, who claim the landmark legislation is too costly and burdensome on the U.S. economy.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), speaking on the floor of his chamber during Thursday’s opening of the climate summit, claimed Biden’s plan would put “good-paying American jobs into the shredder,” as fossil fuel production and other sectors get phased out.
The GOP opposition is an extension of Donald Trump’s indifference to combating climate change while still president.
The counterargument from Biden’s team is that traditional energy sectors are on the decline anyway, and if the U.S. doesn’t start transitioning away from them now, the country will fall behind on the global stage.
John Kerry, Biden’s special climate envoy, called the push for green investment “an economic bonanza” in the making.
“No one is being asked for a sacrifice,” he said. “This is an opportunity.”
The most significant outcome of Biden’s two-day climate summit was his promise Thursday to slash U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030.
The ambitious pledge — which will require a fundamental restructuring of U.S. energy consumption — prompted other world leaders to make similar commitments.
Leaders will meet again in Glasgow in November for a United Nations meeting, where they’re expected to ratify climate action plans as they scramble to stave off the most catastrophic consequences of global warming.
The common goal espoused by most leaders at this week’s summit is to achieve net-zero fossil fuel emissions by 2050.