US President Joe Biden will be facing pressure when he convenes a virtual climate summit on Thursday, as the United States remains one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases in the world today.
The emissions target, eagerly awaited by all sides of the climate debate, will signal how aggressively Biden wants to move on climate change, 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 climate crisis poses a complex political challenge for Biden, since the problem is harder to see and far more difficult to produce measurable results on than either the pandemic relief package or the infrastructure bill.
The target Biden chooses “is setting the tone for the level of ambition and the pace of emission reductions over the next decade,″ said Kate Larsen, a former White House adviser who helped develop President Barack Obama’s climate action plan.
The number has to be achievable by 2030 but aggressive enough to satisfy scientists and advocates who call the coming decade a crucial, make-or-break moment for slowing climate change, Larsen and other experts said.
Scientists, environmental groups and even business leaders are calling on Biden to set a target that would cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.
The 50-percent target, which most experts consider a likely outcome of intense deliberations underway at the White House, 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.
Anything short of that goal could undermine Biden’s promise to prevent temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, experts say, while likely stirring up sharp criticism from international allies and Biden’s own supporters
The target is significant, not just as a visible goal for the U.S. to achieve after four years of climate inaction under President Donald Trump, but also for “leveraging other countries,″ Larsen said. “That helps domestically in the battle that comes after, which is implementing policies to achieve that target. We can make a better case politically at home if other countries are acting at the same level of ambition as the U.S.″ SOVEREIGNPH