Week of 19 April 2021
What are the new climate targets resulting from the Earth Day Summit in Washington?
Our key takeaway: Biden commits to cut the U.S. emissions at least in half by 2030 (when compared to 2005 levels). This is ambitious – although not as ambitious as the UK or Europe, not yet enshrined in law, and below the fair share mitigation target.
On 22 April 2021, U.S. President Biden unveiled a new climate pledge at this week’s White House climate summit bringing together over 40 world leaders:
- Biden pledged that the United States would cut its emissions at least in half by 2030 (compared to 2005 levels), which is one of the more aggressive near-term targets among wealthy industrialized nation. This is a target of 50 to 52 % by the end of the decade. John Kerry, President Biden’s global climate change envoy, has said the goal was “ambitious but appropriate and achievable”, in light of developments in creating renewable energy, battery storage and other areas. The NYT finds that this target is “one of the more aggressive near-term targets among wealthy industrialized nations, although the cuts are arguably not quite as large as what the European Union and Britain have already promised.”
- At the same time, this target does not meet civil society expectations, when considering the U.S.’s historical emissions. A range of civil society organisations have called on the U.S. to develop a “fair share mitigation target”, which would mean committing to make the largest overall contribution to addressing climate change, in light of its position as a wealthy country with the largest economy in the world and the greatest historical emissions of greenhouse gases. This group argued for a 70 percent cut domestically, coupled with a 125% reduction through support to developing countries.
- Japan, Canada and the United Kingdom have also strengthened their climate targets, while China, India and Russia have yet to offer significant new pledges – with China noting that its emissions will peak in 2030. Japan in essence committed to a 44 % cut by 2030 (compared to 2005 levels; 46 % compared to 2013 level). Canada increased its commitment from a 30 to a 40 to 45 % cut by 2030 (compared to 2005 levels). The United Kingdom has passed a law with a 78 % cut by 2035 (compared to 1990 levels). China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, promised to “strictly limit” coal, but that the country will aim to get emissions down from 2030 onwards, where emissions will peak. India and Russia did not make new commitments.
For more, see updates from the Earth Day summit here
Brad Plumer and Nadja Popovich, The U.S. Has a New Climate Goal. How Does It Stack Up Globally? (April 2021, NYT)
(Note that when comparing pledge, it’s relevant to note the date from which the pledge the US’s pledge is based on 2005 emission levels, which was the country’s peak, while European countries’ commitments are based on 1990 levels, when the EU started to cut emissions – hence the choice of dates helps each country’s target appear more ambitious)