Blog Authored by Kelly Speakes-Backman, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy

Earlier this month, I had the honor of attending the 26th annual United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland. This year, the UN called the climate threat a “code red for humanity.” This is a critical year in a decisive decade, and that’s why COP26 is so important.  

COP26 brought together the brightest minds in climate and energy from across the globe to work toward a shared goal of mitigating the worst impacts of climate change. The United States returned to COP this year, reestablishing itself as a leader in fighting the global climate crisis.

We are backing up our climate goals with action—much of which is taking place at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). At COP26, President Biden and Secretary Granholm launched several new DOE initiatives that will be critical components of the U.S. global decarbonization strategy:

  • Better Climate Challenge – This EERE-led effort challenges organizations to set ambitious, portfolio-wide greenhouse gas emission reduction goals.
  • Net-Zero World Initiative – The United States is partnering with countries to rapidly scale up clean energy deployment and help develop decarbonization strategies. DOE is ready to mobilize its state-of-the-art technologies and world-class expertise from our national laboratories to move us toward a net-zero world.
  • Carbon Negative Earthshot Part of DOE’s Energy Earthshots Initiative, the Carbon Negative Shot seeks to achieve durable and scalable carbon dioxide removal—for less than $100 per net metric ton within a decade.

At COP26, I participated in some incredible discussions, where climate and energy experts from around the world shared success stories, lessons learned, and potential decarbonization strategies. EERE hosted two workshops, where we discussed how to develop a supply chain for lithium batteries and launched H2 Twin Cities. H2 Twin Cities is an exciting program under the Clean Energy Ministerial that will connect cities and communities so they can partner to create best practices for clean hydrogen.

Reflecting on my time at COP26, I’m truly inspired by the numerous opportunities we have to preserve our planet. Here are my main takeaways from the conference:

  • I was encouraged to see the vast number of companies—manufacturers, utilities, state and local governments, service providers and others—that attended and announced their own commitments of sustainability and net-zero goals. Private-sector and sub-national participation is essential, because it will take more than federal efforts to secure our clean energy future.
  • The most impactful results start with communities. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the climate crisis—we must build a clean energy future that addresses the particular needs of every single community. No one can be left behind.
  • We cannot spend all our time planning! We have no time to waste and we all must act in cooperative efforts now.

By taking immediate action, we can put millions of people to work in jobs that help mitigate the worst effects of climate change. Together as one global community, we can transition to a clean energy economy and secure a cleaner, healthier world.

I came away reinvigorated and energized for us at DOE and EERE to do our part.