January 30, 2023

President Joe Biden pledges to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 50% to 52% by 2030. This is the government’s latest move to aggressively tackle climate change.

The target announced on Thursday more than doubled the country’s previous commitment to the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, when the Obama administration envisaged cutting emissions by 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025. The US is currently not halfway to achieving this goal.

Biden’s Earth Day promise is in line with what environmental groups and hundreds of executives in large corporations have been calling for. The president will announce the goal at the closely watched climate summit of heads of state and government on Thursday and Friday, at which he intends to promote global cooperation to tackle the climate crisis.

“This is the crucial decade,” said Biden at the summit on Thursday morning. “This is the decade in which we must make decisions to avoid the worst effects of the climate crisis.”

“This is a moral imperative. An economic imperative. A moment of danger, but also a moment of extraordinary opportunity,” said the president.

All 40 world leaders the President invited to the virtual summit will be there, including those from China and India, and are expected to make new commitments. The UK and the European Union are committed to reducing emissions by 68% and 55% respectively by 2030. China, the world’s largest emitter, has vowed to peak emissions by 2030 and be carbon neutral by 2060.

World leaders appear on screen during a virtual climate summit, seen from the East Room at the White House in Washington, the United States, on April 22, 2021.

Tom Brenner | Reuters

During the summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated the country’s earlier commitments, emphasizing green development and multilateralism to reduce global emissions.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for concrete action against climate change and announced a partnership between India and the US for the climate and clean energy agenda for 2030. It also re-affirmed the nation’s pledge to install 450 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2030.

Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced a stricter emissions target of 46% by 2030. Canada also updated its target, promising to cut emissions levels by 40-45% for 2005 by 2030.

The summit is a chance for the US to rejoin global climate change efforts after then-President Donald Trump stepped out of the Paris Agreement, halted all federal efforts to reduce domestic emissions, and passed 100+ environmental regulations to encourage fossil fuel production has withdrawn.

United States President Joe Biden speaks during a virtual climate summit with 40 world leaders in the East Room of the White House on April 22, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Al Drago | Getty Images

“I am pleased to see that the US is back and is working with us again on climate policy,” said Chancellor Angela Merkel during the summit.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who announced this week that the UK would cut emissions by 78% by 2035, praised Biden “for bringing the United States back to the forefront of the fight against climate change”.

“It’s important for all of us to show that it’s not just about an expensive, politically correct, green act of hugging bunnies,” said Johnson. “This is about growth and jobs.”

Biden’s pledge also continues his election promise to decarbonize the country’s energy sector by 2030 and get the country on a net-zero path by mid-century.

Biden has so far proposed a $ 2 trillion infrastructure package designed to ease the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy while also promising green job creation. If passed, the legislation would be one of the federal government’s greatest efforts ever to reduce emissions.

“A strong national emissions reduction target is exactly what we need to catalyze a net-free future and build a fairer and more inclusive economy,” said Anne Kelly, vice president of government relations for sustainability nonprofit Ceres, in a statement.

To achieve a net-zero economy by 2050, the US must cut emissions by 57% to 63% over the next decade, according to an analysis by Climate Action Tracker, an independent group that analyzes various government climate commitments.

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This week’s summit is also ahead of a major UN climate change conference in Glasgow, Scotland, in November, at which the states named in the Paris Agreement will announce updated emissions targets for the next decade.

As part of the agreement, the countries are trying to keep global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit compared to pre-industrial levels.

However, the earth is well on its way to warming up 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, over the next two decades. This century, without global action, temperatures could rise above 3 degrees Celsius or 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

Flavio Lehner, climate researcher and assistant professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at Cornell University, said Biden’s promise, while ambitious, is likely not enough to meet goals under the Paris Agreement. The global temperature rise also largely depends on what other countries promise over the next decade.

“Many climate impacts scale almost linearly with warming, so reducing emissions as quickly as possible must remain an important motivation for this and future administrations, regardless of a specific warming target,” said Lehner.