Executive Summary

During the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties, or "COP26," the United States' "whole-of-government" approach to climate change was on full display, with the Biden-Harris administration formally announcing or launching numerous new commitments, partnerships and initiatives. This includes noteworthy public-private partnerships that offer opportunities for companies to build close relationships with the federal government, share innovative approaches to climate mitigation and adaptation and unlock new business and/or investment ventures in emerging markets.

The following report provides a detailed overview of the U.S.-led commitments, partnerships and initiatives announced or formally launched during COP26, as well as those to which the United States joined as a signatory or co-partner.1 These developments are organized into three sections:

  • Commitments & Pledges contains high-level declarations, statements and proposals to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, provide climate finance and reorient federal government behavior to more climate-friendly practices;
  • Public-Private Partnerships contains new partnerships between federal agencies, offices, businesses, investors and other non-government actors to (i) accelerate the development and deployment of zero- or low-emissions technologies in emerging markets and emissions-intensive sectors2; (ii) mobilize private finance in forests and other critical ecosystems through innovative investment approaches and new investment platforms; and (iii) enhance supply chain sustainability and reporting; and
  • Other U.S. Federal Government Partnerships & Initiatives contains new federal agency initiatives and agreements between the United States and national governments to (i) strengthen their national emissions-reduction strategies; (ii) support regulatory reforms that eliminate barriers to private climate finance; and (iii) provide technical expertise and financial assistance to help developing countries meet their Paris Agreement commitments. Some of these efforts, such as the Department of Energy's Net Zero World Initiative, are likely to seek private sector collaboration or other involvement as they evolve.

Looking ahead, the Biden-Harris administration must now work to ensure that its new commitments, partnerships and initiatives result in meaningful and durable actions. To this end, systems of governance to assure accountability and environmental integrity are necessary. This requires clear sets of indicators to account for progress on the delivery of resources and actions toward meeting and/or maximizing the effectiveness of these commitments, pledges, partnerships and initiatives. Ultimately, the cumulative effect of these endeavors could lead to transformative changes in the oil and gas, transportation and agriculture sectors-and in the way the world cools buildings, people and products.

Climate change will continue to be center stage for the Biden-Harris administration, with efforts to reduce GHG emissions likely ramping up as we head into midterm elections. Akin Gump is assisting clients with engagement and participation in the new partnerships and initiatives and is positioned to provide intelligence and guidance on efforts by the administration and Congress to translate these climate commitments into action, as well as additional opportunities for the private sector to engage with the federal government on climate-related issues.


1 While comprehensive, our report does not intend to reflect the entire landscape of new endeavors announced at or "on the sidelines" of COP26. Accordingly, it does not contain notable international developments to which the United States did not join, including the Global Coal to Clean Power Transition Statement and Declaration on Accelerating the Transition to 100% Zero Emission Cars and Vans. Further, we do not include developments announced "in the lead up" to COP26, such as President Biden's commitment in September to quadruple the United States' climate finance for developing countries by 2024, or new efforts involving U.S. subnational governments, such as California joining the Beyond Oil & Gas Alliance. Finally, absent from our report are new commitments and partnerships announced by other countries and private sector actors that might offer opportunities for private sector collaboration-or otherwise serve as models for companies to pursue likeminded actions-including a commitment by 450 banks and other large financial institutions to establish 2050 net-zero emissions targets under the banner of the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero.

2 Emissions-intensive sectors includes buildings, industry, electric power, transportation and agriculture.

Please click here to view the full report.

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