External Publication

Biden’s Welcome Climate Reboot and the Daunting Diplomacy Ahead

Published on 30 April 2021


For Southeast Asian Nations, Summit a Good Start but Holistic Approach Needed

For developing countries, including in Southeast Asia, the U.S. climate agenda unveiled at President Biden’s summit offers a promising path forward, and signals the renewal of U.S. global climate leadership.

The United States, along with Canada and Japan, announced higher emissions-reduction targets to meet by 2030. The U.S. pledge is almost double that made during the Barack Obama administration. Developing Southeast Asian countries view stronger commitments by developed countries as a step in the right direction; they have long demanded developed countries to credibly lead the way on decarbonization.

The U.S. plan—which is subject to congressional approval—to double its financial assistance to developing countries compared to what it disbursed during President Obama’s second term increases the likelihood of those countries getting the financing they need to develop renewable energy projects.

Additionally, Southeast Asian nations will benefit from the inclusion of nature-based solutions, including $1 billion to combat deforestation in tropical and subtropical regions.

However, these encouraging pledges might not be sufficient to reach the Paris Agreement’s goals. By focusing only on the development of clean energy and pursuing a fragmented approach to environmental protection through nature-based solutions (the conservation and restoration of forest, freshwater, marine, and ocean ecosystems to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere), the underlying drivers of environmental degradation are left untouched.

Deforestation in developing countries, which emits greenhouse gases and leads to biodiversity loss, is driven largely by consumption patterns in developed countries and by international trade with them. Moreover, products imported by developed countries carry with them the emissions from their production in developing countries. Changes to current consumption and the accompanying model of economic growth should be a cornerstone in the fight against climate change. Such a holistic approach is imperative to achieving true sustainability.