U.S. Senator Ben Cardin

Letters From Ben

November 6, 2021

A Decisive Decade 

November 6, 2021

Dear Fellow Marylanders:

Greetings from Glasgow, Scotland. I’m traveling with a contingent of my congressional colleagues to help answer questions President Biden raised in his remarks to world leaders at the outset of the COP26 U.N. Climate Change Conference: “Will we act? Will we do what is necessary? Will we seize the enormous opportunity before us? Or will we condemn future generations to suffer?”

I’m here to ensure our nation’s answer is yes – we will do what is necessary and seize this opportunity to deliver a clean economy that will improve people’s lives. We absolutely must not fail to act. Glasgow must be the kickoff of a decisive decade of climate ambition and innovation to preserve our shared future.

Parties to the Convention were expected to announce new or updated 2030 emissions reduction targets that align with carbon neutrality by the middle of the century ahead of the talks. These steps are needed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels, or up the risk of irreversible changes. To get there, countries will need to hasten the phase-out of coal, cut back deforestation, speed the shift to electric vehicles, and encourage investment in clean energy.

Here, the U.S. is back to being in a position to lead by example. In April 2021, President Biden announced our Nationally Determined Commitment (NDC) will target reducing emissions by 50-52 percent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels, consistent with achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by no later than 2050.

A strong showing in Glasgow will convey Congress’s role and commitment to deliver this bold agenda: The combined impact of both the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Build Back Better Act framework — the single largest economy-wide climate investment across the building, transportation, industry, electricity, agriculture, and other sectors — will put domestic emissions on a course to meet our climate targets. When you add administrative actions by federal agencies and states like Maryland, our 50-plus percent target by 2030 becomes even more attainable.

A half-degree difference may not sound like much, but every bit of warming matters when the stakes quite literally couldn’t be higher. The Northeast has experienced some of the highest rates of sea level rise and ocean warming in the United States, and these exceptional increases relative to other regions are projected to continue through the end of the century. From 2010 to 2020, Maryland experienced 31 extreme weather events, totaling up to $10 billion in damages. Last week, I met with local leaders to learn about how “Team Maryland” in Congress can continue to help communities address climate change impacts.

Adaptation to the devastating effects of climate change that are already here will be a key theme of the conference, even as we work to “keep 1.5o alive.” Countries will need to protect and restore ecosystems and build resilient infrastructure to protect communities and natural habitats. The Build Back Better Act directs historic levels of federal funding, grants, and technical assistance to states, Tribes, nonprofits, local governments, and academic institutions for projects that conserve, restore, and protect coastal habitats, forests, and soils. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act even dedicates funding to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Chesapeake Bay Program, in recognition of watershed’s critical role in resiliency.

The dual purpose of the climate provisions in the legislation — avoiding greenhouse gas emissions and increasing the resiliency of infrastructure to withstand adverse impacts — in a way that favors domestic industries, creates good union jobs, and advances environmental justice, make enactment both necessary and an opportunity.

To deliver on these two objectives, we must make good on our promise to mobilize climate finance, another hot topic to watch at COP26. In 2009, Parties with more resources committed to collectively unlock $100 billion per year from public and private sources between 2020 and 2025 to help those that are less resourced and more vulnerable cut their emissions and adapt to climate impacts. A report by Germany and Canada and commissioned by the U.K. (host of COP26) found that developed countries are not set to meet the climate finance target until 2023 — three years late. At the U.N. General Assembly in September, President Biden announced that he will work with Congress to quadruple our climate finance support for developing countries by 2024, including a significant increase in support for adaptation efforts.

So let this be the moment that we answer history’s call.  

Please stay safe,


Ben Cardin