The news: The US will pledge to halve its carbon emissions from 2005 levels by 2030 at a summit of 40 global leaders today. It is almost double an Obama-era pledge in 2014 to get emissions 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025. The hope is that the commitment will help to encourage India, China, and other major emitters to sign up to similar targets before the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, set to be held in Glasgow, UK, in November. “The United States is not waiting, the costs of delay are too great, and our nation is resolved to act now,” the White House said in a statement.
The big picture: The world has already warmed up by 1.2°C since pre-industrial times, and it’s getting ever closer to the 1.5°C threshold that the 2016 Paris Agreement aimed to avoid. Climate scientists have been warning for years now that a significant amount of climate damage is already baked in thanks to previous emissions, but there is still a short window to avoid catastrophic global warming.
Is Biden’s pledge feasible? For now, there’s no specific roadmap for how the US will reach this new target, but the White House is expected to release sector-by-sector recommendations on how to achieve it later this year. To meet the 2030 target the US will have to radically overhaul its economy and drastically cut the use of oil, gas, and coal. Specifically, President Biden will need to push through a set of ambitious policies to spend $2.3 trillion to tackle emissions in high-polluting areas, such as cars and power plants, and accelerate innovation in clean energy and climate technology.
The reactions: Nat Keohane, head of the Environmental Defense Fund, an influential US NGO, tweeted that the new US target “meets the moment and the urgency that the climate crisis demands. It aligns with the science, pushes global ambition & accelerates the shift to a stronger, clean economy.”
“After years of U.S. federal inaction to address its role in the climate crisis, today the Biden administration has presented all of us with significant reason for hope,” says Rachel Cleetus, policy director and lead economist in the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
However, some environmental groups say that the target still does not go far enough. Evan Weber, cofounder of the youth-led Sunrise Movement, said: “If the US does not achieve much, much more by the end of this decade, it will be a death sentence for our generation and the billions of people at the frontlines of the climate crisis.”
What are other countries doing? Earlier this week, the UK pledged to reduce emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels. The EU has also promised to cut its current emissions by 55% by 2030, while Japan announced today that it will cut its emissions by 46% by 2030 from 2013 levels.