President Joe Biden announced that the United States will cut emissions by 50% to 52% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels at the US Leaders Summit on Climate on Thursday.
The new target nearly doubles the level set by the Obama administration at the onset of the Paris climate agreement in 2015, and establishes the US as an aspirational leader on climate action. Achieving such a significant reduction of emissions will require unprecedented investments across the country at the local, state, and federal levels.
Biden said that bold climate action is the only option going forward.
“I talked to the experts and I see the potential for a more prosperous and equitable future,” Biden said. “The signs are unmistakable. The science is undeniable. The cost of inaction keeps mounting.”
The climate summit brought together more than 40 leaders who pledged their support for strong climate action and global cooperation and vowed to strive to keep temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Currently, the world is on pace to warm up to 3 degrees Celsius this century, a level of warming that would unleash catastrophic climate impacts.
During the summit, other world leaders sketched out plans to strengthen their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) under the Paris climate agreement.
Japan announced plans to cut its emissions by 46% compared to 2005 levels, while Canada committed to cutting emissions by up to 45% over this period. China iterated its intention to reach peak emissions within the decade, and India said it would generate 450 megawatts of renewable energy by 2030.
As the host of the summit, the pressure was on the US to go big, and Biden’s announcement set the bar for climate action.
For Biden, the economic potential of the green revolution holds appeal.
“Meeting this moment is about more than preserving our planet,” he said. “It’s also about providing a better future for all of us. That’s why when people talk about climate, I think jobs. Our climate response lies in the extraordinary engine of job creation and economic opportunity that’s ready to fire up.”
The Biden administration announced that it will pursue 100% pollution-free electricity by 2035, invest in nature-based solutions such as protecting wetlands and marine habitats, and bring sustainable jobs to Americans.
The country’s ongoing economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic will prioritize the transition away from fossil fuels, the administration said.
Halving emissions will require transformative action but it’s possible, according to the World Resources Institute.
The federal government will have to work with states to expand renewable energy generation, enact efficiency standards in buildings, phase out gasoline-powered cars, invest in regenerative agriculture, and eliminate the use of coal, according to a report by WRI and partners.
“President Biden has come through with a bold emissions reduction target that should make the world sit up and take note,” Manish Bapna, interim president and CEO of the World Resources Institute, said in a statement. “This target will serve as the North Star for President Biden’s domestic agenda. It will create a more equitable and prosperous society. At a time when the country is looking to bounce back from the pandemic, this goal will help unleash millions of good jobs, boost business and drive innovation.
“The new US emissions target raises the bar for other countries as we head toward the UN climate summit in Glasgow,” he added. “The message to other major emitters is loud and clear: It’s your move next."