Joe Biden

President Biden has promised more US climate action

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US president Joe Biden will commit the world’s second biggest emitter to cutting its greenhouse gas emissions by up to 52 per cent by 2030 at a climate summit today.

The new goal, which aims for a 50 to 52 per cent drop on 2005 levels, is part of a wider US effort to build momentum on more ambitious climate pledges ahead of the United Nations’ COP26 summit this November.

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Biden’s pledge is in line with experts’ expectations and what businesses were calling for. The commitment marks a big upgrade to the existing US target of reducing emissions by 28 per cent by 2025 on 2005 levels, which is now equivalent to around a 38 per cent cut.

The independent Climate Action Tracker, which monitors countries’ emissions pledges, called the new US target a “significant step forward”. However, the group said the goal was just shy of what would be required to meet the Paris agreement’s aspiration of holding global warming to 1.5°C. That would require a 57-63 per cent cut, it said.

A White House fact sheet today reiterated a plan to achieve zero carbon electricity by 2035, and said the new goal would also be met with more fuel efficient cars, heat pumps in buildings and forests. “The United States is not waiting, the costs of delay are too great, and our nation is resolved to act now,” the statement said.

Around 40 heads of state are attending Biden’s virtual Leaders Summit on Climate today. Yoshihide Suga of Japan and Justin Trudeau of Canada are among those expected to also submit a new climate plan like the US, known formally as a nationally-determined contribution (NDC).

The new US NDC comes a day after the UK enshrined in law a target of cutting emissions 78 per cent by 2035, compared to 1990 levels.

John Kerry, the US special presidential envoy on climate, tweeted: “This Earth Day we’re working hard to lower our emissions and encouraging other countries to do the same.” However, Michal Meidan at Oxford University says Biden’s target is unlikely to swiftly prompt a new NDC from China, the world’s largest emitter.

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