Foreign Policy on Climate and Fossil Fuels in a Biden Admin

One of President Biden’s first actions upon taking office was to notify the United Nations that the United States is rejoining the Paris Agreement. This marks the start of a new era for the United States, focused on accelerating climate action globally. And through the decision to reject the Keystone XL permit, the Biden Administration has signaled that it is willing to confront the reality that fossil fuel infrastructure projects are putting us on a dangerous emissions pathway. To go further in dealing with fossil fuel emissions, there are a few key areas listed below where President Biden’s team can drive significant global emissions reductions quickly.

Through the selection of an experienced team to lead international climate diplomacy, President Biden has signaled just how important tackling climate change will be in foreign policy. In his confirmation hearing, incoming Secretary of State Tony Blinken provided this response to a question about international financing of energy projects: “we want to make sure that we are not doing anything to facilitate countries exporting dirty technology around the world.” The US must lead this change and end our own lending for coal, oil and gas projects overseas. Here's how:

  1. Clean Energy, Not Coal: President Biden’s Clean Energy Export and Climate Investment Initiative can help countries adopt a clean energy pathway. It is vital for the Biden Administration to fulfil its promise to offer countries clean energy alternatives to Belt and Road countries planning to build coal plants.
  2. Fossil Fuel Finance: The Biden Climate Plan also made clear: “No financing dirty energy” through the US Development Finance Corporation or U.S. Export-Import Bank. The US can follow the example of the UK, announcing an end to government support for the fossil fuel energy sector overseas. And, the US can use its position within multilateral development banks to push for the same.
  3. Threat of US LNG Exports: The latest research has made clear that Liquefied “Natural” Gas (LNG) exports are a climate threat. Even by conservative estimates, LNG exports cannot help the world meet its climate goals due to high life-cycle emissions from LNG production, liquefaction, transport, regasification and combustion. The Biden Administration must make clear that it will end the policies of the last few years promoting LNG, and shift to focus on a true clean energy export agenda with other nations.

As President Biden’s climate plan says:

Getting to a 100% clean energy economy is not only an obligation, it’s an opportunity. We should fully adopt a clean energy future, not just for all of us today, but for our children and grandchildren, so their tomorrow is healthier, safer, and more just.

We’ve provided a detailed set of recommendations for how to do that, and look forward to working with the Biden Administration to supporting clean energy economies at home and abroad.

About the Authors

Han Chen

Manager, Energy Policy, International Program
Blog Post

The United States, as one of the world’s largest fossil fuel exporters and financiers, plays an outsized role in determining the global trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions. Too much government money is wasted on fossil fuel projects when more responsible uses for the funds are possible.

Blog Post

A Biden-Harris Administration takes office with the stark reality that we would have been in a better position if the world had a stronger U.S. partner. We must be bolder, more innovative, and deliver action more widely and effectively if we are going to bend the curve of emissions quickly enough to prevent the most severe impacts of climate change to people and the planet.

Blog Post

Increasing overseas exports of liquefied natural gas could make it impossible to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

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