WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden on Thursday pledged to cut US greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 52 per cent by the end of this decade. With this, Biden reverses the hands-off policy of his isolationist and science-sceptic predecessor Donald Trump, restoring a global approach in an interdependent world in the throes of a pandemic.
Forty world leaders — including heads from China, India, Russia, Japan, and UK — pitched their views and ideas at a virtual summit where Biden, introduced by his vice-president Kamala Harris, called the need for addressing global warming “a moral imperative, an economic imperative.”
“The signs are unmistakable. The science is undeniable. The cost of inaction is mounting,” he said in his opening remarks, vowing that US would do its part to cut its 2005 level emissions by 50 to 52 per cent by 2030. He further asserted that his approach will create jobs and boost economies.
The White House said the US President’s goal roughly doubles a target set by President Barack Obama in 2015 as part of the Paris climate accord, and he plans to formalise the new goal in a submission to the United Nations.
Biden’s pledge will require a fundamental change in the “American way of life” cherished by the country’s nativist base, premised on unsparing and uncaring use of fossil fuels and hydrocarbons. A $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan which includes a clean energy standard to achieve net zero emissions in the power sector by 2035 and money to electrify the vehicle fleet are among the steps the Biden administration had proposed. The plan triggered resentment in mostly Trumpian circle of climate change sceptics which believes Washington should not worry about the rest of the world and simply do what is best for the American economy that thrives on consumption.
Illustrative of the common global concern on the issue despite severe differences on other matters, leaders of Russia, China, India, Japan, Canada, UK and others — many with serious on-going bilateral spats — joined the virtual summit to broadly align themselves with the overall goal of reducing emissions.
Biden, who spoke from the East Room of the White House decorated with plants and greenery on the occasion of Earth Day, was later joined by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and climate czar John Kerry as Washington returned to a leadership role to tackle a global crisis that has momentarily taken a backseat due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“No nation can solve this crisis on our own, as I know you all fully understand all of us, all of us and particularly those of us who represent the world’s largest economies. We have to step up,” he said in words that could well apply to the pandemic.
In his speech, Prime Minister Modi made no new commitments but announced an India-US climate and clean energy partnership to mobilise investments, demonstrate clean technologies, and enable green collaborations. He also maintained that India’s per capita emissions are far smaller than other major emitters — a pointed rebuttal to global powers often putting China, which has five times more emissions than India, in the same basket.