Second, the Biden administration should step up cooperation on climate resilience, especially for Central America and the Caribbean, which are particularly vulnerable. These hurricane-prone countries have seen their electric grids battered by storms, causing major blackouts, especially on islands where there is often only a single power plant and one electricity grid.
When Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti in 2016, it caused widespread power failures, leading to great hardship for people who had also lost their homes. With assistance from the United States, investment in energy technologies such as smart grids, decentralized “mini-grid” power systems and energy storage solutions can make grids more climate-resilient. Electric transport can also ease the region’s problems with air pollution and dependence on imported oil.
Mr. Biden has vowed to recommit the United States to the Green Climate Fund. Through USAID and international climate organizations, the United States could also provide technical assistance and funding for national adaptation and clean energy plans to attract investment in resilient infrastructure.
Finally, the Biden administration must support the fight against deforestation in the Amazon. This year has seen a nearly 10 percent rise in deforestation in Brazil, according to its National Institute for Space Research, and record numbers of forest fires. Trade and economic tools, along with technical assistance and aid can be used to both coax and pressure Brazil into improving conservation and promoting sustainable economic development in the Amazon region.
This will likely become a source of tension with Brazil. But conservation also presents an opportunity for collaboration with other Amazonian countries like Bolivia, Colombia and Peru, which are also home to large parts of the Amazon rainforest and are struggling to contain deforestation.
The United States government could bolster foreign aid to help countries expand protected areas, extend sustainable economic development programs and provide financial incentives for locals to maintain standing forests. Technical assistance to improve transparency and environmental standards in infrastructure programs would also help Amazon countries to save forests since roads are a major driver of deforestation.
If climate change is to become a pillar of the United States foreign policy, the Biden administration will have to create a constructive agenda that incorporates the priorities of its allies but also fulfills Washington’s goals. In its relations with Latin America and the Caribbean, the United States has many opportunities for collaboration that would meet these twin objectives.
Lisa Viscidi is the director of the energy, climate change and extractive industries program at the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington think tank.
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