After a four-year hiatus, the United States is officially taking climate change seriously again. On Thursday, President Joe Biden pledged that by 2030, the nation will slash its carbon pollution 50 to 52 percent compared with 2005 levels.
That goal, which represents America’s new “Nationally Determined Contribution” under the Paris Agreement, was announced during a two-day virtual summit Biden is hosting with leaders of the world’s largest economies, starting on Earth Day, to galvanize greater climate ambitions. It’s a bold leap forward from the Obama administration’s original Paris Agreement pledge to reduce emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. But it falls squarely in line with what hundreds of scientists and public health experts, as well as heads of corporations, have called for in recent days.
The announcement comes the same week that the European Union agreed to reduce its carbon emissions 55 percent by 2030 compared with the 1990 levels, and the U.K. announced historic emissions cuts of 78 percent by 2035, also compared with 1990.
Many climate scientists say it’s imperative that the United States, which has put more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere over time than any other country, cut its climate-warming carbon pollution at least in half this decade. That’s necessary, they say, to limit global warming to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius), the widely accepted threshold for preventing catastrophic damage from climate effects.
Halving emissions this decade won’t be easy, but the goal is within reach, according to independent studies and a behind-the-scenes analysis the federal government has been conducting in the lead up to Biden’s announcement. To make it happen, the administration will have to marshall all of the resources at its disposal, enabling and accelerating decarbonization across every sector of the American economy.