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US to ‘cut emissions in half by 2030’

Biden urges world leaders to accelerate their own plans to tackle climate change

Lisa Friedman New York Published 23.04.21, 02:02 AM
Joe Biden

Joe Biden File Picture

President Biden on Thursday declared America “has resolved to take action” on climate change and called on world leaders to significantly accelerate their own plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or risk a disastrous collective failure to stop catastrophic climate change.

In a show of renewed commitment after four years of the Trump administration’s unvarnished climate denial, Biden formally pledged that the US would cut its emissions at least in half from 2005 levels by 2030.


Barely three months into Biden’s presidency, the contrast with his science-denying predecessor, Donald J. Trump, could not have been more striking.

“The signs are unmistakable, the science is undeniable and the cost of inaction keeps mounting,” Biden said.

While the summit is an international one, Biden’s speech was also aimed at a domestic audience, focusing not just on America’s obligation to help cut its global emissions but on the jobs he believes are available in greening the US economy.

“The countries that take decisive actions now” to tackle climate change, Biden said, “will be the ones that reap the clean energy benefits of the boom that’s coming”.

But one of Biden’s biggest political obstacles is international: Republicans say the US should not be asked to sacrifice if the world’s largest emitters will swallow US efforts in their pollution.

Joining Biden on Thursday, President Xi Jinping of China restated promises his nation already has made to “strive to peak” emissions by the end of this decade and reach carbon neutrality by 2060.

Xi said coal would be on its way out after 2025, which is realistically the only way to reach the 2030 carbon neutrality goal. Coal use may have already peaked in China, according to experts.

Xi also noted that China’s goals call for “extraordinary efforts” and maintained it is cutting emissions “in a much shorter time span than what might take many developed countries”.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made no new commitment, but reiterated his nation’s promise of installing 450 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity by 2030. He also said that his country’s per capita emissions are far smaller than other major emitters.

“We in India are doing our part,” Modi said. “Despite our development challenges we have taken many bold steps.”

The summit is the first of its kind to be convened by a US President, and Biden is joined by other world leaders like Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada.

Trudeau pledged Canada would reduce its greenhouse emissions levels 40 per cent to 45 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030, compared with its previous target of a 30 per cent emissions reduction in the same time frame.

Japan also announced that it would cut emissions 46 per cent below 2013 levels by the end of the decade, a significant show of solidarity with the US.

Biden’s target of 50 per cent to 52 per cent by the end of the decade calls for a steep and rapid decline of fossil fuel use in virtually every sector of the American economy and marks the start of what is sure to be a bitter partisan fight over achieving it.

The two-day summit comes at a time when scientists are warning that governments must take decisive action to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

The consequences of exceeding that threshold includes mass species extinctions, water shortages and extreme weather events that will be most devastating to the poorest countries least responsible for causing global warming.

Officially, nations that are party to the Paris agreement are obligated to announce their new targets for emissions cuts in time for a UN conference in Scotland in November.

New York Times News Service

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