“We’re looking for other countries to make big commitments as well, but we can’t do that with a straight face if America isn’t leading the way, if we’re not walking the talk,” Buttigieg told CNN’s John Berman on “New Day.”
Although the Biden administration has not outlined a plan for how it will achieve this goal, the rhetoric marks a significantly different approach than that of former President Donald Trump, who denied climate change science and whose administration rolled back several environmental policies.
On CNN Thursday, Buttigieg called it “disastrous” that the Trump administration left the United States’ “seat at the table empty” on the issue.
“And that’s why it’s so important today that we are convening — virtually, but still convening — in the US a summit of leaders around the world who don’t agree on much, but who recognize just how important this is,” he said.
Buttigieg told CNN that Biden’s “big, bold, but achievable commitment” on greenhouse gas emissions is going to help America “resume that position of US leadership and then challenge the other nations of the world to be part of the solution as well.”
Asked about China’s plans compared to the US, Buttigieg said, “It’s natural for America to be leading the way. That’s what Americans are used to be doing. You know, the posture we’re used to having. And then challenging the other countries of the world to catch up.”
Regarding the sacrifices Americans may have to make to meet Biden’s goal to cut emissions, Buttigieg said, “It’s going to take a national effort, but this is not a matter of something that can be done just by asking individual Americans to make individual choices.”
“This is a matter of policy,” he added, while also acknowledging that Biden’s goal is a “huge lift.”
Pressed again on what Americans might have to give up, Buttigieg did not provide anything specific and replied, “I think this is being characterized as if it’s about our personal habits. Certainly, we ought to be paying attention to our personal carbon footprints, but this is a lot bigger than this.”
“It’s not in the context of your daily routine that you’ll modernize the US energy grid. But it is the case we have to make that choice as a country, and we have to make those policies that are going to make it possible,” he said.
Biden’s plan calls for $621 billion spent on roads, bridges, public transit, rail, ports, waterways, airports and electric vehicles aimed at improving air quality, reducing congestion and limiting greenhouse gas emissions.
CNN’s Kate Sullivan, Kevin Liptak, Betsy Klein, Kaitlan Collins, Helen Regan, Tami Luhby and Katie Lobosco contributed to this report.