WASHINGTON — President Biden on Thursday moved to put four years of official climate denial behind the United States, declaring that America would cut its global warming emissions at least in half by the end of the decade.
Addressing 40 heads of state at the start of a virtual two-day summit meeting to prove the United States commitment to the Paris climate agreement, which Donald J. Trump had abandoned, Mr. Biden sought to galvanize other countries to take more aggressive steps. He cast the challenge of avoiding catastrophic warming as an economic opportunity for America and the world.
“This is a moral imperative, an economic imperative,” Mr. Biden said. “A moment of peril, but also a moment of extraordinary possibilities.”
In rapid succession, Japan, Canada, Britain and the European Union committed to steeper cuts. But China, India and Russia made no new emissions promises, and even Mr. Biden’s commitment to cut U.S. greenhouse gases 50 percent to 52 percent below 2005 levels by the end of the decade will be extraordinarily difficult to meet, economically and politically.
dramatic overhaul of American society, including the virtual elimination of coal for electricity and the replacement of millions of gasoline-powered cars with electric vehicles.
And the Biden administration’s ambitions cut to the heart of its toughest diplomatic challenge: Dealing with China. While the United States is the largest emitter in history, China’s emissions are currently the largest, which only add to the issues that have both Republicans and Democrats seething at Beijing.
Republicans immediately questioned why Americans should sacrifice when Chinese coal pollution is likely to swamp any gains from U.S. emissions cuts, at least in the near term.
the world economy will suffer $23 trillion in losses by midcentury from natural disasters and the spread of disease, according to a report from Swiss Re, one of the world’s largest providers of insurance to other insurance companies.
American credibility has been battered by years of joining and then abandoning efforts to tackle climate change; if it does not meet its new goals, or if it reverses course once again with a new administration, trust in the United States would plunge still further.
The latest pledge puts the United States almost on par with Europe, but still behind Britain. On climate finance, the Biden administration promised to double its contribution to help developing countries address climate change, to an estimated $5.7 billion by 2024. But, like many of Mr. Biden’s promises, that would require the approval of Congress. And even that level would only match what many other rich countries did years ago. Experts said the climate finance announcement was anything but ambitious.
That underscores a central fact: Mr. Biden’s promise is little more than that — a promise. Unlike pledges this week from the European Union and Britain, the U.S. target is not entrenched in law. Mr. Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan, which includes the money and the policies to draw down carbon pollution, has not yet been translated into legislation much less found support from a divided Congress.
Mr. Biden is pushing the heads of his cabinet agencies to enact executive-branch climate change policies across the federal government, from new fuel economy standards for vehicles to rules limiting fossil fuel extraction on public lands to new financial regulations designed to curb Wall Street investment in heavily polluting industries. But those rules alone are unlikely to add up to the steep emissions reductions necessary to meet Mr. Biden’s ambitious new target. And, as the Trump administration showed, they could be undone by a future White House without much trouble.