The US will aim to cut greenhouse gas emissions 50% below 2005 levels by 2030, Biden administration officials said on April 20. The announcement comes ahead of a global climate summit on April 22-23, which officials said would include 40 heads of state, including China’s Xi Jinping in what will be his first meeting with Biden.
The new goal, if met, would put the US on track to meet Biden’s longer-term goal for emissions to reach net zero by 2050, which is essential in order for global warming to stay within the Paris Agreement limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. It doubles the pace of the previous target set by president Barack Obama, and is among the most ambitious goals set by global leaders in terms of relative total emissions reductions. New UK and EU goals announced this week remain more aggressive on both an absolute and per-capita basis, according to BloombergNEF data (the new goals are 78% below 1990 levels by 2035 for the UK, and 55% below 1990 levels by 2030 for the bloc). By setting an ambitious target, the administration is also looking to step up pressure on South Korea, Australia, and other big emitters that have not yet set near-term targets.
Beyond the headline number, key details of the new Biden pledge remain unknown, including how exactly the administration plans to get there, and whether it will commit billions of dollars in new financing to support climate adaptation and clean energy in developing countries. The administration’s climate agenda hinges on its $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan, which aims to clear the way for low-carbon energy sources to supplant fossil fuels, and is currently under debate in Congress.
The outcome of that spending package, and new federal regulations on greenhouse gas emissions that are in development, will determine whether the US will be able to accelerate the pace of its energy transition, which is currently not fast enough to meet the new 2030 goal. As of 2020, US emissions are about 20% below 2005 levels, and are poised to inch upward as the economy recovers from the pandemic.
“The US is not on track to meet its [Obama-era] target for 2025, meaning the federal and local governments need to implement more policy support to spur decarbonization,” said Victoria Cuming, head of global policy for BloombergNEF. “Or it risks damaging its climate credibility even further—by announcing a target and missing it.”