US pledge to halve emissions by 2030 moves world closer to climate target

The US president’s new target aims to achieve a 50-52% reduction in emissions from 2005 levels by 2030
US pledge to halve emissions by 2030 moves world closer to climate target

Joe Biden is announcing the updated US target at a summit he has convened (Evan Vucci/AP)

Joe Biden is announcing a new target to cut US greenhouse gas pollution by at least half by 2030 as he convenes a summit of world leaders aimed at driving greater climate action.

The US president’s new target aims to achieve a 50-52% reduction in emissions from 2005 levels by 2030, a move which the White House said would create millions of jobs, cut energy costs and boost nature.

Analysts said the move is “major progress” on previous US commitments, and helps reduce the gap between the action needed to curb dangerous global warming and what countries have pledged to do – although it is not quite enough to bring America in line with achieving international climate goals.

The move comes at the start of a virtual climate summit convened by the US President. 

The summit comes after the International Energy Agency warned that global carbon emissions were set for their second biggest increase on record after a sharp drop in 2020 due to the pandemic, with demand for fossil fuels, including coal, pushing climate pollution up to close to 2019 levels.

The two-day US-led summit will also hear from leaders of major economies including China, Japan, Russia, Canada, India and Australia, who will be watched closely to see what ambition they will bring to the table.

Japan and Canada are among the countries expected to unveil new climate targets at the meeting, while the European Union has agreed a new climate law which includes a goal to cut its emissions by 55% by 2030 on 1990 levels.

As part of diplomatic efforts in the lead-up to the summit, the US and China issued a statement pledging to work together and with other countries on the issue.

The US reduction – estimated to be around a 41-44% cut on 1990 levels – is part of the US’s national climate plan, which it is submitting as part of its return to the Paris climate accord, the world’s first comprehensive climate treaty which Donald Trump quit when he was president.

Countries have been expected to come forward with more ambitious plans up to 2030, known as nationally determined contributions (NDC) in the Paris deal, ahead of Cop26 in November.

That is because existing plans are not enough to meet countries’ commitments under the Paris deal to curb global temperature rises to “well below” 2C above pre-industrial levels – or 1.5C if possible – and avoid the most dangerous impacts of climate change.

Analysts at Climate Action Tracker said the new US target was a significant step forward and would reduce the global emissions gap between action pledged and the cuts needed to meet the Paris goals by around 5-10% in 2030.

But bigger cuts of 57-63% by 2030 would be needed for the US to play its part in meeting the 1.5C target and put the country on a better track to achieving its pledge to cut emissions to net zero by 2050.

The summit, which will have sessions on increasing climate action, finance for developing countries, the role of natural solutions such as restoring forests and peatlands, and security impacts of climate change, will also hear from United Nations secretary general Antonio Guterres and Pope Francis.

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