President Joe Biden on Thursday doubled the US commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, leading Japan and Canada in making new commitments at a summit that will bring the world closer to limiting the worst effects of climate change.
Biden told a virtual Earth Day summit that the world’s largest economy will cut emissions blamed for climate change by 50 to 52 percent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels, putting the US back in the lead on the issue.
“The cost of inaction keeps mounting. The United States isn’t waiting,” Biden told a two-day summit of 40 leaders including the presidents of rivals China and Russia and Pope Francis.
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“We have to step up,” Biden said. “We have to take action — all of us.”
Biden’s early and aggressive environmental push contrasts sharply with his predecessor, Donald Trump, but it has already raised concerns about whether the US will be able to keep its promises if another climate-skeptic president is elected in the future.
Regardless of what happens in the US elections, John Kerry, the former secretary of state who is now Biden’s globe-trotting climate envoy, insisted that change will be permanent due to market forces.
“No politician — no matter how demagogic or how potent or capable they are — is going to be able to change what that market is doing because it will have moved, it will have had four years of entrenchment,” Kerry told reporters.
Kerry said that with Thursday’s pledges, more than half of the world’s economy has committed to taking action to keep the planet’s temperature below 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, as set out in the Paris Agreement to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
When he was Biden’s first foreign guest last week, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga discussed climate change, raising the goals of the world’s second largest developed economy to a 46 percent reduction in emissions by 2030, compared to 2013.
“We must take action now. Because there’s no vaccine against a polluted planet,” Trudeau said.
The pledges were hailed by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres as a sign that “the tide is turning for climate action,” but he called for immediate action.
The European Union confirmed its own ambitious goals this week, and former bloc member Britain released the most far-reaching targets of any major economy on the eve of Biden’s summit, with 78 percent reductions from 1990 levels by 2035.
Biden’s pledge was dubbed “a game-changer” by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
In November, the United Kingdom will host a UN conference in Glasgow aimed at improving the Paris Agreement.
Kerry predicted that the next six months will be “extremely critical,” describing Glasgow as “our last best hope” for uniting the world in the right direction.
Former President Barack Obama stated in 2015 that the United States would cut emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2025 under the Paris Agreement, a goal that Biden, Obama’s vice president, has now dramatically increased.
However, Greta Thunburg, the iconic 18-year-old climate activist, accused politicians of still not grasping the magnitude of the climate crisis, citing continued fossil fuel subsidies as an example.