Secretary for Climate

The betting shops are confident enough in a Biden victory that they’re already paying out. Despite this, things are going to be messy for a while in the United States.

When he finally emerges, Joe Biden is going to need a unifying message, not just for Americans, but for those who look to America for leadership.

That message will be climate change. It has to be. He doesn’t really have another.


Twitter avatar for @JoeBidenJoe Biden @JoeBiden

Today, the Trump Administration officially left the Paris Climate Agreement. And in exactly 77 days, a Biden Administration will rejoin it.


The U.S. has officially left the Paris Agreement, three years after Pres. Trump announced he would leave the international climate change forum.


But even though he’s not spoiled for choice, Biden’s got a lot of upside if he goes hard on the climate bandwagon. Domestically, it’s a job-maker. He can throw billions into the Rust Belt and California’s eastern provinces of Nevada and Arizona. Mitigation and infrastructure dollars will be badly needed in Florida and the Gulf states. Tech, mass transport and household energy efficiency initiatives are all great for small business.

Spending is at the House’s discretion, and voters in most of those states are persuadable enough that an obstructionist Senate would likely be signing its own death warrant.

He might even shore up Texas for a win next time, putting the final nail into Nixon’s Southern Strategy.

Internationally, climate change is the only thing that leaders can agree on. It is Biden’s one chance to engage positively with China, and it offers him a unique opportunity for rapprochement with Europe, India and southeast Asia without poking any bears—or pandas.

I could be wrong, but my bet is that the next Secretary of State will lead have serious diplomatic chops and likely significant experience in deal wrangling.

This puts countries that are out of step on climate change in a tough place. Australia would likely have it toughest of all. With China already telegraphing that it will reduce its reliance on Australian coal, the Coalition will be hard pressed to resist US overtures to stop shilly-shallying about on the platform and get on board the Paris train.

How Scott Morrison and his cabinet navigate between that Scylla and Charybdis will be interesting to see. It’s unlikely Murdoch or Palmer will suddenly turn on them. (Where else would they go?) And it’s not at all sure that Labor can stage a miraculous turnaround and unite the country on… anything, really.

But Australia will have to move. The tide is rising and the ship is either going to make headway or the current’s going to carry it. Either way, it moves.

The only leverage Australia has with China right now is trade, and that’s tenuous, as we’re seeing. Coming on board with climate change gives Australia the chance to play the middle ground between Xi and Biden, using its import/export markets to its own advantage in the process.

It also means jobs in a seriously depressed economy. Not as many as in the USA, but a lot.

It pulls the Pacific more firmly into its orbit, and builds the moral argument for closer alliance.

But most of all, it means survival. Not just for the parties, but for the country.

The Village Explainer is a semi-regular series of analysis and insight focusing on under-reported aspects of Pacific societies, politics and economics.