President Joe Biden will pledge to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions at least in half by 2030 as he convenes a virtual climate summit with 40 world leaders, according to three people with knowledge of the White House plans.
The 50% target would nearly double the nation’s previous commitment and require dramatic changes in the power and transportation sectors, including significant increases in renewable energy such as wind and solar power and steep cuts in emissions from fossil fuels such as coal and oil.
The nonbinding but symbolically important pledge is a key element of the summit, which begins Thursday as world leaders gather online to share strategies to combat climate change.
The emissions target has been eagerly awaited by all sides of the climate debate. It will signal how aggressively Biden wants to move on global warming, a divisive and expensive issue that has riled Republicans to complain about job-killing government overreach even as some on the left worry Biden has not gone far enough to address a profound threat to the planet.
The three people who know about the White House plans spoke on condition of anonymity on Tuesday because they were not authorized to discuss the pledge ahead of Biden’s announcement.
Biden has sought to ensure that the target is aggressive enough to have a tangible impact on climate change efforts, not only in the U.S. but throughout the world, while also achievable under a closely divided Congress.
Scientists, environmental groups and even business leaders have called on Biden to set a target that would cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% below 2005 levels by 2030.
The target Biden chooses “is setting the tone for the level of ambition and the pace of emission reductions over the next decade,″ Kate Larsen, a former White House adviser who helped develop President Barack Obama’s climate plan, said before the target was revealed.
A goal of at least 50% emissions cuts “puts the U.S. at the top of the pack,” she added.
The climate summit is “the starting gun for climate diplomacy” after a four-year “hiatus” under former President Donald Trump, said Larsen, now a director at the Rhodium Group, an independent research firm.
Former Secretary of State John Kerry, Biden’s top climate envoy, has been pressing global leaders, including his counterpart in China, for commitments and alliances on climate efforts.
Sen. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who reintroduced the Green New Deal on Tuesday with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said the 50% target was appropriate to meet the scope and scale of the climate crisis.
“The United States must be an undeniable global leader in climate action,” Markey said. “We cannot preach temperance from a barstool and not pay our fair share when approximately 40% of all the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is red, white and blue.”
A 50% reduction by 2030 is “technically feasible and well within our reach,” Markey added. “We can and should fight to pass legislation and deploy funding that will allow us to exceed that target.”
Like other nations, the U.S. goal includes methane and some hydrofluorocarbon gases that trap more heat but don’t last as long.
The 50% pledge was first reported by The Washington Post.