President Joe Biden will commit the United States on Thursday to cutting its greenhouse emissions 50% to 52% by 2030 in remarks kicking off his climate summit event with world leaders.
Biden administration officials say the target, one of the most aggressive in the world, is achievable despite the transformation of the fossil fuel-dependent economy it would entail.
And they argue it’s necessary in order to keep the U.S. on pace for net-zero emissions by 2050, a marker the world must meet to achieve the goal of the Paris Agreement to hold warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.
“As much as I would like to say we know what 2030 is going to look like with certainty, the reality is our ability to achieve continues to be improved every single day by innovation,” an administration official said on a press call.
The aggressive target is symbolic and nonbinding without being approved by Congress. But Biden hopes it restores U.S. credibility and pushes other countries to submit more ambitious plans to the United Nations as part of the Paris Agreement, which former President Donald Trump rejected.
“This gives us significant leverage in pushing for climate action abroad,” a second senior administration official said. “When we close this summit, we will have unmistakably communicated the U.S. is back.”
To make his goal achievable, Biden would almost certainly need Congress to enact new domestic policies to reduce emissions from transportation and electricity, the top two polluting economic sectors. Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure and climate spending proposal has the potential to be the centerpiece policy needed to reach the goal, especially if it contains his clean electricity standard proposal requiring utilities to use only zero-emissions power by 2035.
Passing the package as written, however, is far from certain, and owing to that, the administration is not yet providing a detailed road map for how it plans to reduce emissions from each economic sector to achieve its goal.
“We see multiple paths to reaching this goal,” the first administration official said, adding Biden would provide only a “high-level summary” at his two-day summit event.
A U.S. commitment to cut emissions 50% to 52% by 2030 would rank among one of the most aggressive pledges to the Paris Agreement, nearly on par with the European Union but behind the United Kingdom.
Administration officials said they expect Japan and Canada to announce more aggressive climate targets at the climate summit this week. Combined, countries representing roughly 60% of global gross domestic product are slated to announce stronger targets to curb emissions during the event.
But other large polluting countries whose leaders are attending the summit, such as China and India, are expected to hold out on new announcements, leading to criticism from Republicans in Congress that the U.S. is hampering its global competitiveness.
The new U.S. goal would essentially double the initial target set by the Obama administration as part of the Paris Agreement in 2015 to reduce emissions by 26% to 28% from 2005 levels by 2025. The U.S. was off pace to meet the Obama administration target until the the coronavirus pandemic that shut down the economy and slammed demand for transportation fuels caused a record drop in emissions last year. Emissions are expected to rise again in 2021 as the economy recovers.
Biden administration officials say the U.S. is in a better position today thanks to the dramatic fall in costs this decade of clean energy technologies such as solar, battery storage, and carbon capture enabled in part by bipartisan policies passed by Congress to provide federal research dollars and tax incentives to support them. States, cities, and individual companies have boosted their actions in the absence of the federal government during the Trump administration.
“We are standing here with better field position today than we had four years ago,” a senior administration official said.
Author: Josh Siegel
Source: Washington Examiner: Biden sets target of cutting US emissions up to 52% by 2030 but won’t detail how to get there