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Biden Commits To Halving Greenhouse Pollution By 2030

Some activists including Greta Thunberg say the U.S. goal alone is not ambitious enough to meet the moment on the climate crisis.

President Joe Biden speaks during climate change virtual summit from the East Room of the White House campus April 22, 2021, in Washington, D.C. | Getty Images
President Joe Biden speaks during climate change virtual summit from the East Room of the White House campus April 22, 2021, in Washington, D.C. | Getty Images

President Joe Biden has set a goal for the U.S. to cut greenhouse gas emissions by roughly 50% by the end of the decade — a stark contrast to the previous administration’s open denial of the climate crisis. The announcement came as part of the Biden administration’s virtual Leaders Summit on Climate where 40 world leaders were invited to work on a global effort tackling the climate crisis. 

On Thursday, which was also Earth Day, Biden announced his administration’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas pollution levels from 2005 by 50 to 52% by 2030. The plan is part of the administration’s goals to create “good-paying, union jobs, ensure economic competitiveness, advance environmental justice, and improve the health and security of communities,” according to a White House release. He previously announced a goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. 

“I talked to the experts and I see the potential for a more prosperous and equitable future,” Biden said during remarks at the summit. “The signs are unmistakable, the science is undeniable and the cost of inaction keeps mounting.”

Still, some activists say the U.S. goal alone is not ambitious enough to meet the moment on the climate crisis.

“They will call these hypothetical targets ‘ambitious,’’’ climate activist Greta Thunberg said in a NowThis video warning of politicians’ Earth Day promises. “But when you compare our insufficient targets with the overall current best available science, you clearly see that there’s a gap.”

Biden’s plan includes investing in “clean technologies,” “reclaiming” coal mines, and building clean hydrogen plants for steel and cement production. Biden also said he sees “auto workers building the next generation of electric vehicles.” It expands upon a commitment under the Obama administration to cut carbon, which sought to reduce carbon pollution by 26-28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025.

Governors from 12 states including New York, California, and Hawaii wrote the president a letter on Wednesday urging regulations that would require all new vehicles and light-duty trucks to be zero emissions vehicles by 2035. All but one of the governors — Gov. Charlie Baker (R-MA) — is a Democrat.

“Moving quickly towards a zero-emission transportation future will protect the health of all communities,” the letter read. “The proposed investments in the American Jobs Plan can be leveraged even further by a strong regulatory framework and will allow the market for American-made zero emissions vehicles (ZEVs) to flourish.”

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the United States is the second-highest polluter in the world behind China. India is third. China’s President Xi Jinping and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi joined Biden’s summit, reiterating their own promises to make changes that will cut their countries’ carbon emissions.

Biden’s commitment to tackling the climate crisis started on day one of his presidency, when he signed an executive order to rejoin the Paris Agreement, a binding international treaty on the climate crisis signed by most other countries in the world.

Former President Donald Trump filed notice to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement in November 2019, despite widespread criticism. Trump also appointed a long-standing climate denier to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which heads some of the nation’s top climate research.

The Trump administration had previously rolled back other policies established by the Obama administration to combat the climate crisis, while bolstering industries that harm the environment including coal, gas, and oil.

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