This op-ed was originally published in The Hill.
Addresses by national leaders to the United Nations General Assembly are often broad expressions of lofty ideals, and President Joe Biden's speech Tuesday fell squarely into that category. It covered an extraordinary panoply of global challenges and policy concerns, including controlling the COVID-19 pandemic, rebuilding and strengthening global alliances and regional initiatives, curbing terrorism, protecting human rights (including the rights of women and workers) and lifting up democracy. Biden also committed the United States to advancing human dignity, combating corruption and seeking peace in areas of conflict around the world.
Of particular importance were Biden's remarks regarding the global climate change crisis. Observing that "we stand at an inflection point in history," Biden outlined a stark choice between "meeting the threat of climate change" or suffering "the merciless march of ever-worsening droughts and floods, more intense fires and hurricanes, longer heatwaves and rising seas." Attempting to lead by example, while also appealing to a domestic audience, Biden stressed the climate-related aspirations and actions of his administration. He noted that he had previously announced a U.S. national goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 50 percent to 52 percent below 2005 emission levels by the year 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050 — goals that he reiterated in his address.
The president indicated that investing in "green technology" provides an opportunity to create numerous good-paying jobs — while spurring long-term economic growth and an improved quality of life. Moreover, he asserted, transparent, sustainable investments must be made to maintain high environmental (and labor) standards. Therefore, Biden indicated that his administration is working with the U.S. Congress to make critical federal investments in green infrastructure and electric vehicles. He exhorted the world's leaders to bring "their highest possible ambitions to the table" when they gather in Glasgow this fall for the UN’s COP-26 summit meeting regarding climate change.