President Joe Biden has announced a new US target to achieve a 50 to 52 per cent reduction from 2005 levels of greenhouse gas pollution in 2030.
The president formally announced the ambitious target on Thursday as he opened a two-day White House climate summit for world leaders at 8am local time.
The promise will require a dramatic overhaul of how America runs: sweeping changes to the power sector and transportation, and rapid transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources like wind and solar.
Mr Biden’s recently-introduced $2 trillion infrastructure bill, the American Jobs Plan, has put transition to a clean energy economy at its core with funds for sweeping overhauls to the energy and transport sectors.
The target is non-binding, but nevertheless symbolically important, and would give the US a renewed position of credibility from which to press other nations to increase their goals.
Opening the climate summit, Mr Biden called for other countries to commit to targets and said: “The cost of inaction keeps mounting. The United States isn't waiting.”
“This is the decade we must make decisions that will avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis,” the president added.
Dr Rachel Cleetus, policy director and lead economist for the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a statement: “After years of US federal inaction to address its role in the climate crisis, today the Biden administration has presented all of us with significant reason for hope.
“This necessary and achievable goal is an important signal that the US is ready to be a responsible partner on climate action with the global community. Bold action could also help mobilise a coalition of high-ambition nations, giving us a fighting chance of keeping global climate goals within reach during this consequential decade.”
Jean Su, a director of justice programme at the Center for Biological Diversity, added in a statement: “The US is the largest historic polluter and one of the wealthiest nations, and it must do its fair share and cut domestic emissions by at least 70 per cent by 2030.”
“Combating the climate emergency at home also requires transforming our economy by moving immediately to end the fossil fuel era and create a renewable and anti-racist energy system that advances justice first,” Ms Su added.
During the presidential election campaign, Mr Biden promised to set America on a path to net-zero emissions no later than 2050.
All 40 world leaders invited to the the climate summit on Earth Day have RSVP-ed to attend including the US’s fellow major polluters; China, Russia and India. It is being viewed as a milestone event to raise climate ambitions on the road to the UN climate talks, known as COP26, in Glasgow later this year.
The goal is drive global ambition to cut carbon emissions. Scientists warn that global heating needs to remain well below 2 degrees Celsius (C) above pre-industrial levels, with an aim for an increasingly ambitious 1.5C goal, to avoid the worst of climate breakdown.
A White House official told Reuters that with renewed carbon commitments from Japan, Canada, and the UK and EU, countries worth more than half the world's economy were now committed to reductions to achieve the 1.5 Celsius goal.
"When we close this summit on Friday, we will unmistakably communicate ... the US is back," said the White House official.
Additional reporting by Reuters and the Associated Press
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