climate change

The US pledges to halve emissions by 2030 as President Biden calls this the decisive decade for action on climate change

US President Joe Biden during the virtual climate summit on Earth Day. Photo credit: Reuters / Johanna Geron / Pool.

By Anders Lorenzen

The Biden Administration has taken another ambitious step for the climate by announcing  ambitious new climate goals at a special climate summit hosted by the US government on Earth Day (22nd of April), in which 40 other heads of states were also invited. 

 The day also saw other nations up their climate goals in a drive to turn up the ambition ahead of the COP26 climate summit to be held in Glasgow, UK, at the end of this year. 

Halfing emissions within a decade

Opening the summit. President Biden 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”. He announced that the US will halve its greenhouse gas emissions within this decade, noting that countries that take decisive action now will reap the economic benefits of a clean energy future. To enshrine this commitment, the US submitted a new “nationally determined contribution” (NDC) under the Paris Agreement (all countries are required to set their individual NDC ahead of COP 26) setting an economy-wide emissions target of a 50-52% reduction below 2005 levels in 2030. Secretary of State Blinken remarked that he had witnessed a strong sense of urgency in tackling the climate crisis, noting how this is a critical year and a decisive decade to take action. He said the US will work with other countries to engage in all avenues of cooperation to “save our planet.” 

The Administration also highlighted the urgent need to scale up climate finance and announced efforts to increase public finance for mitigation and adaptation in developing countries, as well as efforts to catalyze trillions of dollars of private investment to support the transition to net-zero emissions no later than 2050. President Biden stressed the importance of developed countries meeting the collective goal of mobilizing $100 billion per year in public and private finance to support developing countries. He further announced that the Administration intends to seek funding to double by 2024 the annual US public climate finance to developing countries, in relation to the average level of finance in the second half of the Obama-Biden Administration (FY 2013-2016). This would include tripling public finance for adaptation by 2024. And crucially the president repeated his calls for an end to fossil fuel subsidies and announced that his Administration will undertake a series of steps to promote the measurement, disclosure, and mitigation of material climate risks to the financial system. 

Mixed reactions

Dominic Waughray, Managing Director and Head of the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Climate Action Platform said this marked a historic day for action on climate change: “Biden’s national strategy for climate action brings an “all of government” approach, which will help scale and accelerate private-sector efforts. It effectively stimulates a “win-win” public-private scenario for climate action.”

However, some green groups said it fell short of what is required. Jean Su, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Energy Justice program said: “Solving the climate crisis requires applying both science and equity. The US is the largest historic polluter and one of the wealthiest nations, and it must do its fair share and cut domestic emissions by at least 70% by 2030. Combating the climate emergency at home also requires transforming our economy by moving immediately to end the fossil fuel era and create a renewable and anti-racist energy system that advances justice first.” While Agnes Hall, Global Campaigns Director at 350.org added: “There can be no meaningful climate action if world leaders don’t make a decisive move to keep all fossil fuels in the ground. It’s one thing to make climate goals, but governments simply can’t afford to keep on funding the flames by pouring money into subsidising coal, oil, and gas.”

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