Climate change: President Joe Biden surprises summit by pledging to halve US emissions by 2030
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The US President announced the new pledge as he convened a summit of world leaders aimed at driving greater climate action.
The new target aims to achieve a 50-52% reduction in emissions from 2005 levels by 2030, a move which the White House said would create millions of jobs, cut energy costs and boost nature.
Mr Biden said: “The signs are unmistakeable, the science is undeniable. The cost of inaction keeps mounting.
“The United States isn’t waiting, we are resolving to take action, not only our federal government but our cities and our states all across our country, small business, large corporations, American workers in every field.”
However, the President said the US could not solve the problem on its own, and urged: “All of us, particularly those who represent the world’s largest economies, we have to step up.
“Those that do take action and make bold investments in their people, in clean energy futures, will win the good jobs of tomorrow and make their economies more resilient and more competitive.”
He also said: “Scientists tell us that this is the decisive decade. This is the decade we must make decisions that will avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis.
“We must try to keep the Earth’s temperature to an increase of 1.5C,” he said, warning a world beyond 1.5C meant more frequent and intense fires, floods, droughts, heatwaves and hurricanes hitting communities, lives and livelihoods.
‘Major progress’ on previous commitments
Analysts said the move is “major progress” on previous US commitments, and helps reduce the gap between the action needed to curb dangerous global warming and what countries have pledged to do – although it is not quite enough to bring America in line with achieving international climate goals.
The move comes at the start of a virtual climate summit convened by Mr Biden, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson also told fellow world leaders that they all should “make this decade the moment of decisive change in the fight against climate change.”
The Prime Minister this week announced a “world-leading” target for the UK to cut emissions by 78% on 1990 levels by 2035, which builds on plans to cut pollution by 68% by 2030, the most ambitious among leading economies.
But campaigners in the UK have warned that policies and action are urgently needed to deliver on the pledges and cut pollution from homes, transport, industry and power supplies.
Mr Johnson said at the summit that climate action was not an “expensive, politically correct, green act of bunny hugging” but could deliver green jobs and growth, and the world could build back better from the pandemic by building back greener.
“Let’s use this extraordinary moment and the incredible technology that we’re working on to make this decade the moment of decisive change in the fight against climate change and let’s do it together,” he urged.
The summit comes after the International Energy Agency warned that global carbon emissions were set for their second biggest increase on record after a sharp drop in 2020 due to the pandemic, with demand for fossil fuels, including coal, pushing climate pollution up to close to 2019 levels.
A waypoint summit ahead of Cop26
The two-day US-led summit will also hear from leaders of major economies including China, Japan, Russia, Canada, India and Australia, who will be watched closely to see what ambition they will bring to the table.
Japan and Canada are among the countries expected to unveil new climate targets at the meeting, while the European Union has agreed a new climate law which includes a goal to cut its emissions by 55% by 2030 on 1990 levels.
As part of diplomatic efforts in the lead-up to the summit, the US and China issued a statement pledging to work together and with other countries on the issue.
The US reduction – estimated to be around a 41-44% cut on 1990 levels – is part of the US’s national climate plan, which it is submitting as part of its return to the Paris climate accord, the world’s first comprehensive climate treaty which Donald Trump quit when he was president.
Countries have been expected to come forward with more ambitious plans up to 2030, known as nationally determined contributions (NDC) in the Paris deal, ahead of Cop26 in November.
That is because existing plans are not enough to meet countries’ commitments under the Paris deal to curb global temperature rises to “well below” 2C above pre-industrial levels – or 1.5C if possible – and avoid the most dangerous impacts of climate change.
Analysts at Climate Action Tracker said the new US target was a significant step forward and would reduce the global emissions gap between action pledged and the cuts needed to meet the Paris goals by around 5-10% in 2030.
But bigger cuts of 57-63% by 2030 would be needed for the US to play its part in meeting the 1.5C target and put the country on a better track to achieving its pledge to cut emissions to net zero by 2050.
The summit, which will have sessions on increasing climate action, finance for developing countries, the role of natural solutions such as restoring forests and peatlands, and security impacts of climate change, will also hear from United Nations secretary general Antonio Guterres and Pope Francis.