President Biden convened a virtual climate-change summit with other world leaders on Thursday and kicked things off with an ambitious pledge. Biden said the US would cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 when compared to 2005 levels. In a stark contrast to the views of predecessor Donald Trump, Biden called climate change the "existential crisis of our times," per the Washington Post.
- Just how ambitious is Biden's goal? Axios notes one estimate that the US is currently on track to reduce emissions by 12% before the end of the decade, meaning substantial new policies would have to be enacted to reach his target of 50% to 52%. The shift from fossil fuels to newer forms of energy would have to be greatly accelerated.
- The president can expect friction from Republicans in Congress over the new goal. GOP Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming accused Biden of "unilaterally committing America to a drastic and damaging emissions pledge" that would damage the US economy, per the New York Times. However, Politico lays out how the Biden White House thinks it can achieve the goal even if Congress balks.
- Other world leaders were supportive. Germany's Angela Merkel said she was "delighted" to see the US taking a leadership role again in the climate fight, per the Post. Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi called Biden's position a "complete change" in attitude compared to Trump's. Canada and Japan were among the nations to join the US in substantially ramping up their goals on emissions.
- China's Xi Jinping also spoke, and while he didn't increase his nation's goals, he restated China's pledge to max out on emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. "To protect the environment is to protect productivity, and to boost the environment is to boost productivity. It's as simple as that," Xi said, per the AP. Russia's Vladimir Putin similarly restated his country's promise to slash emissions by 2050, and he said the climate fight "should certainly unite the efforts of the international community as a whole." Neither leader mentioned ongoing diplomatic friction with the US.
- While China's Xi was diplomatic, a government spokesman was more critical of the US return to the fold on climate issues, particularly the Paris Agreement. "Its return is by no means a glorious comeback but rather the student playing truant getting back to class," said Zhao Lijian, per USA Today. Biden, he added, still must provide details on how he plans "to make up for the lost four years."
- While Biden can expect opposition from Republicans who think he's moving too far left on climate policies, a separate story in USA Today notes that liberals and progressives don't think he's being aggressive enough. "The urgency of this crisis demands action," said Democratic Rep. Jared Huffman of California, one of the co-sponsors of the Green New Deal. "Winning slowly is the same thing as losing."
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