President Joe Biden on Thursday vowed to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.
Biden announced the new target during a virtual summit with 40 world leaders, including the heads of China and Russia.
The new target essentially doubles the previous goal, established under President Barack Obama in 2015 when he entered the United States into the Paris climate agreement.
The new target “is part of the President’s focus on building back better in a way that will create millions of good-paying, union jobs, ensure economic competitiveness, advance environmental justice, and improve the health and security of communities across America,” the White House said.
Former President Donald Trump removed America from the climate pact, choosing a different path towards sustainability. Emissions dropped during Trump’s time in office, but some believed the decrease was too small and have been pressuring Biden to take more drastic action.
The United States rejoined the Paris agreement on Biden’s first day in office and he has said he wants the country to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. Net zero means all greenhouse gas emissions are balanced by an equal amount of greenhouse gas removal.
“I talked to the experts, and I see the potential for a more prosperous and equitable future. The signs are unmistakable. The science is undeniable. But the cost of inaction keeps mounting,” Biden told other leaders during the summit.
The new target is ambitious both technologically and politically, according to Flavio Lehner, an assistant professor at Cornell University’s Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.
“It seems difficult to reach the goal without any dedicated new regulations and financial incentives. However, those are traditionally difficult to put in place and show an effect in a time period as short as between now and 2030. And then there’s always the political volatility of changing administrations,” he told The Epoch Times in an email.
Americans may find prioritizing alternative energy sources like solar more appealing than a carbon tax but “it’s difficult to decarbonize fast without some form of carbon tax,” he added.
Nick Loris, deputy director for of the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation, questioned the cost of reaching the target.
“A target that is driven by mandates, subsidies, and regulations will cost taxpayers [and] energy consumers and barely move the needle on climate,” he told The Epoch Times via email, adding that foundation research pegged a carbon tax of $100 per ton to reach a similar reduction to what Biden wants.
“A better way for the U.S. to lead is by unleashing free enterprise. Removing government-imposed barriers to energy innovation would foster a stronger economy and, in turn, a cleaner environment,” he added.
Biden administration officials said they analyzed how every sector can cut pollution and consulted with stakeholders, including unions, business leaders, and governors.
Among the efforts will be reducing pollution by cutting tailpipe emissions and boosting the efficiency of vehicles while providing support to industries to use hydrogen to power facilities.
Nathaniel Keohane, senior vice president for climate at the Environmental Defense Fund, said in a statement that the goal can be reached “through multiple pathways using existing technologies.”
But Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said the United States is already leading the world in reducing emissions, increasing its commitments in a global pact “could severely hamper our global competitive edge to the benefit of the Chinese Communist Party, the world’s top carbon polluter,” and that doing so would leave people unemployed and raise the cost of living.
Biden told leaders during the summit that America only represents 15 percent of the world’s emissions.
“No nation can solve this crisis on our own, as I know you all fully understand. All of us, all of us—and particularly those of us who represent the world’s largest economies—we have to step up,” he said, forwarding his view that countries that do take on climate issues will “win the good jobs of tomorrow” and make their economies “more resilient and more competitive.”
Biden has elevated climate to a top priority during his time in office, tapping former Secretary of State John Kerry as a climate czar and emphasizing the climate in his recently unveiled infrastructure proposal through provisions like funding for electric vehicle charging stations and the solar sector.
The Energy Information Administration projects that at the present pace, so-called renewables such as wind and solar will produce 42 percent of America’s energy in 2050.
“The U.S. is back in the game,” Gina McCarthy, a climate adviser to Biden, told an NPR podcast this week. “They’re not wrong that we have lost some time. But frankly, the U.S. is looking at this as a tremendous opportunity to shift to clean energy. And we would hope that China and our other countries would look at it similarly.”
Following Biden’s announcement, Japanese officials pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 46 percent by 2030 from 2013 levels, media in Japan reported.
Worldwide, emission levels this year are on track to surge by 1.5 billion tons—the second-largest increase in history—according to the International Energy Agency, a group established in Paris that is primarily funded by the United States and Japan.
To continue to reduce emissions in the United States, the administration needs to include nuclear energy in the framework, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute, a lobbying group.
“I’m excited to see what comes out of the summit as more leaders press for serious action on climate. Serious action on climate, though, means valuing nuclear alongside wind and solar,” Matt Crozat, the institute’s senior director of strategy and policy development, said in a statement. “Any meaningful plans to drastically reduce carbon emissions must include nuclear energy—which provides reliable, carbon-free electricity 24/7—as part of the technologies to achieve that vision.”
Another lobbying group, the American Petroleum Institute, said that it supports the goals of the Paris agreement.
“The new U.S. nationally determined contribution addresses only half of the dual challenge of reducing the risks of climate change while ensuring affordable, reliable energy for all Americans,” institute President Mike Sommers said in an emailed statement. “With a transparent price on carbon and innovation, we can make measurable climate progress within this decade without hurting America’s middle class, jeopardizing U.S. national security, and undermining economic recovery.”