Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, February 17, 2021


Jesse Bragg, Corporate Accountability, (617) 695-2525,
Jean Su, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 770-3187,

Thousands Urge Biden to Commit U.S. to Doing Fair Share on Climate

Petition Calls on Administration to Take Responsibility for Historical Emissions

WASHINGTON— Just days before the reentry of the United States into the Paris Agreement becomes official, environmental groups delivered a petition to the Biden administration signed by more than 50,000 Americans demanding that the U.S. commit to cutting its fair share of emissions.

The petition also calls on the administration to honor owed support for Global South countries. It reflects an analysis released in December by the U.S. Climate Action Network, or USCAN, that provides a path for the U.S. to take action that is in line with its responsibility for the climate crisis.

The delivery follows a sign-on letter from over 100 U.S. climate groups, released for the 5-year anniversary of the adoption of the Paris Agreement. The call has now been endorsed by a total of 195 organizations including the international Climate Action Network, which represents more than 1,500 organizations from over 130 countries.

Earlier this month a similar coalition also demanded that the Biden administration commit $8 billion to the Green Climate Fund, as well as further contributions to the Adaptation Fund.

According to the USCAN analysis, for the U.S. to begin to take its fair share of the global action needed to help limit global warming to 1.5°C, it must reduce U.S. emissions 195% by 2030 (down from 2005 levels). To make this contribution, the analysis calls for U.S. domestic emissions reductions of 70% by 2030, combined with a further 125% reduction achieved by providing financial and technological support for emission reductions in Global South countries.

The extremely large U.S. ‘fair share’ contribution partly reflects U.S. emissions to date. Today’s global warming is driven by cumulative emissions (not annual emissions), and the U.S. has already historically emitted more than any other country. In fact, many analyses deem that the U.S. has far surpassed its fair share of the cumulative global carbon budget for limiting warming to 1.5°C. The domestic reduction of 70% by 2030 recommended by USCAN roughly aligns with an ambitious decarbonization plan via a prosperous economy-wide mobilization.

The fair share demand is one part of a larger framework prescribed by environmental groups called the Climate President Action Plan. The plan includes 10 steps the administration can take to fulfill its promise to take bold steps on climate and rebuild trust abroad.

Quotes from participating organizations:

Brandon Wu, director of policy and campaigns at ActionAid USA, said, “Just as domestic climate justice — a priority for the Biden administration — means a particular focus on historically marginalized communities, global climate justice means addressing legacies of exploitation and colonialism and their role in creating a tragically unjust climate crisis. People around the world are already suffering from devastating climate impacts, and many of those most vulnerable had little or no role in causing the problem. As the world’s largest historical climate polluter, the United States has a moral and legal responsibility to support those vulnerable communities. Doing our fair share of climate action means addressing the injustices we have visited on those communities, starting with providing real financial support for just and equitable climate action in developing countries.”

Rev. Michael Malcom, executive director of Alabama Interfaith Power & Light and the People’s Justice Council and the U.S. Climate Action Network’s elected representative to Climate Action Network-International, said, “Our country is one of the richest in the world and has to do more than everyone else to fix this problem. But let’s be clear. This is a problem caused by the rich and the corporations they control. The U.S. has to do its fair share, and that responsibility has to be shouldered by the rich, not forced onto the working class and historically marginalized people.”

Jean Su, energy justice director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said, “After disproportionately polluting the planet for centuries, the United States must take its fair share of robust climate action on both the domestic and global stage. While President Biden’s climate executive order is a strong first step, declaring a climate emergency will call this crisis what it is and level up the legal tools for confronting it. Out of the devastation of the coronavirus and the Trump administration, the president must seize this singular chance to build back a just, clean energy system that tackles the climate crisis and the wretched racism embedded in it. The U.S. must help finance that same transition across the world in communities who have contributed the least to this climate emergency.”

Tasneem Essop, executive director at the Climate Action Network, said, "The question is very simple. Will the U.S. under President Biden do its fair share in addressing the climate crisis? Having played an outsized role in historically fueling the climate crisis and generally obstructing climate progress in the international space, rejoining the Paris Agreement is a just a start on much more heavy lifting in terms of the urgent action that is needed. To do its fair share, President Biden must commit to bold emissions cuts at home, being a good global citizen and supporting the global community in ensuring a just transition away from a fossil fuel economy. Now is the time to make these commitments clear to all. The world is watching."

Sriram Madhusoodanan, Corporate Accountability’s U.S. climate campaign director, said, "The Biden administration has touted climate action, and it is time for them to walk the walk. With its reentry to the Paris Agreement, the U.S. must commit to honor the climate debt it owes to Global South countries, deeply cut emissions equitably at home and stop undermining people-first solutions. What we’re calling for is not a return to the Obama years, it’s a complete realignment of the U.S.’s approach to climate diplomacy that puts people, not corporations, first."

Tom Athanasiou, executive director of EcoEquity, said, “People have realized how great the climate danger really is. The bad news is that many still hope technology will save us. It will help, but the real secret is going to be cooperation. Real cooperation — within countries and between them — of a kind that’s only possible if everyone, and especially the rich, are seen as doing their fair share. It’s a big ask for the U.S., the wealthiest country the world has ever known, but there’s no avoiding it. If the Biden administration intends to kickstart a true climate mobilization, it has to do its global fair share even as it pursues a justice-first mobilization at home. There is no other way.”

Sivan Kartha, Ph.D., of the Stockholm Environment Institute, said, “This fair share demand recognizes not only the bedrock ethical principles of the international climate regime, but also the simple political reality that poorer countries, where most decarbonization efforts will ultimately need to occur, will be highly reluctant to take major actions unless and until they see the world’s most powerful country and its largest overall contributor to climate change doing its fair share.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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