US climate summit: Tackling climate change could create millions of jobs, says Biden

Nations that work together to invest in a clean economy will reap rewards for their citizens, said US President Joe Biden. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON - Dealing with climate change could create millions of well-paying jobs around the world, US President Joe Biden said at a virtual summit on Friday (April 23).

He touted the benefits that could be reaped by workers and companies, and the money that can be made from the fight against climate change.

"As we transition to a clean-energy future, we must ensure that workers who have thrived in yesterday's and today's industries have as bright a tomorrow in the new industries," said Mr Biden, whose administration is proposing a US$2 trillion (S$2.7 trillion) infrastructure and jobs package to tackle climate change and transform America's economy.

"Nations that work together to invest in a clean economy will reap rewards for their citizens," he added.

While the first day of the climate summit was full of big promises, including the US' vow to halve carbon emissions based on 2005 levels by 2030, the second day focused on concrete ways to achieve those targets and the economic benefits of doing so.

Tremendous innovation is needed to enable the world's switch from fossil fuels to clean energy, industry and world leaders said at the virtual summit.

"Using just today's technologies won't allow us to meet these ambitious goals," said Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, adding that almost all zero-carbon technologies are more expensive than their fossil fuel counterparts.

"We need new, zero-carbon products that are just as affordable," said Mr Gates during a session on climate innovation, which focused on the importance of pumping public and private money into innovation.

US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm highlighted her department's work in research and development to "unlock major breakthroughs" so America can deploy renewables at scale by the end of the decade.

The Energy Department aims to cut the price of solar energy in half yet again by 2030, and also wants to lower the cost of clean, renewable hydrogen by 80 per cent before 2030, making it competitive with natural gas, she said.

It also seeks to slash battery cell prices in half again and reduce the need for critical materials, making electric vehicles affordable and maybe even cheaper than gasoline vehicles, she added.

"This is our generation's moon shot. Less than a decade after President Kennedy declared our nation's choice to go to the moon, we planted an American flag on that cratered surface, and today, we choose to solve the climate crisis," said Ms Granholm.

Going big on these ambitions will also create jobs for millions of people, said Ms Granholm, highlighting a key theme of the Biden administration - that workers and firms can benefit and make money from the fight against climate change.

The Energy Department also announced US$109.5 million in funding for projects that directly support creating jobs in communities affected by changes in the energy economy. Apart from the herculean task of swapping coal for electricity, America will also need to phase out millions of gasoline-powered cars and replace them with electric vehicles, to achieve its goal of slashing carbon emissions.

On Thursday, the White House announced new policies to more quickly deploy electric vehicles and infrastructure for charging them.

The Department of Energy announced new funding and partnerships for charger-related research and development.

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