WASHINGTON DC (NPR): President Biden opened a global summit on climate change Thursday morning by announcing that the United States will aim to cut its greenhouse gas emissions in half, based on 2005 levels, by the end of the decade.
That aggressive 2030 goal, which the White House is framing as a “50-52 percent reduction,” will be formalized in a document called a “nationally determined contribution,” or NDC.
The NDC is a public commitment to address climate change made by each country that signed on to the 2015 Paris Agreement, which the U.S. formally left last year at the behest of then-President Donald Trump and reentered this year after Biden took office.
The Paris Agreement seeks to keep the world from facing the worst-case scenarios that could occur if the Earth warms more than 2 degrees Celsius from the preindustrial era, with a goal of keeping the rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Already, average annual global temperatures are 1 degree Celsius higher than the mid-19th century, or almost 2 degrees Fahrenheit.
When the global climate agreement was first crafted during the Obama administration, the U.S. pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 25% below 2005 levels by the year 2025, a goal that the country is not on track to meet. In addition to pulling the U.S. out of its commitment, the Trump administration rolled back many federal efforts to reduce emissions.
Before Thursday’s announcement, the Biden administration had come under growing pressure to set an aggressive goal of at least a 50% reduction in greenhouse gases based on 2005 levels to make up for languishing U.S. emissions cuts.
That pressure came from both environmental advocates and a group of 300 corporations that recently signed on to a letter calling on the administration to cut emissions in half by 2030 — double the goal set by Obama.
Biden’s national climate adviser, Gina McCarthy, said halving U.S. emissions was a realistic goal.