How to judge Biden’s climate promise

How to judge Biden's climate promise

US President Joe Biden on April 22 Announced In contrast, a new great commitment of our country Climate change, Promising that by 2030 it would reduce US greenhouse gas emissions by 50-52 percent from 2005 levels. Is it a little? It’s enough? It is not easy to get an idea on a case starting only with Biden’s declaration, as if it is not easy to understand if he will be able to translate this commitment into words not yet written into any US law Is, concrete facts.

L ‘2015 Paris Climate Agreement Signal countries undertake to honor the so-called Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), in Italian “set contributions on a national basis”, which are national targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (the cause of climate change), has been chosen independently and voluntarily so that the global average temperature is 2 ° C. To be as low as possible. .

The commitment from the 2005 level to halve emissions by 2030 is the new national contribution from the United States. Comparisons of commitments with which the EU and other countries of the world have made comparisons are complex for various reasons, with each country (or union of countries) first choosing its own reference year against which to calculate emissions reductions She goes. The United States chose 2005 because it was around that year that it reached its peak in greenhouse gas emissions. On the other hand, the European Union is committed to reducing its emissions again by 2030 55 percent from 1990 levels: European emissions began to decrease around that year due to the introduction of some environmental policies and the collapse of the economies of the former communist bloc, which caused much pollution.

Choosing the year in which the most emissions were produced (rather than the previous year, for example) is one way to be able to declare a higher percentage as the reference year, and therefore present your commitment in the best light Does. Second Calculations done by the research institute Rhodium Group, If the EU promises were compared to the 2005 emission levels, the declared percentage would be 51 percent instead of 55.

Second i Date Dell Global Carbon Project, An organization that seeks to determine the amount of global greenhouse gas emissions, in 2010 the United States produced 5.698 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO)2), The main greenhouse gas, the United Kingdom at 512 billion tons and the European Union (including the United Kingdom) at 3.442 billion tons. Comparing all the NDCs announced for that year’s emission levels, it appears that the country that has promised a greater percentage reduction is the United Kingdom with 58 percent. Biden’s promise changes slightly, with the European Union turning in a reduction of 46 percent.

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Another comparison is being made to judge Biden’s promise of the commitment Barack Obama made in 2016 to his successor Donald Trump. Withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement: Obama had promised a 25–28 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2005 by 2025. Bloomberg On energy sources that do not produce emissions, Obama’s promise extended to 2030 Would have led 34 percent decrease from 2005 level.

Therefore the current President has relied on a more ambitious manner. Bill McKibben, environmental expert and contributor to the magazine new Yorker, He commented: Joe Biden’s strategy for the epidemic was to make implicit promises and then achieve results above expectations, his administration committed to administer a hundred million doses of the vaccine in its first hundred days, but then it doubled the target. Managed more than. This is a clever political strategy, especially since the previous president did the exact opposite on every occasion. However, Biden’s new climate plan does not follow this example ».

According to McKibben and other commentators, to keep their promise, Biden must make greenhouse gas emissions a priority in his presidency and beyond: he and Vice President Kamala Harris must ensure they win the next presidential election, by 2030 Ensure that from now on all political decisions keep the goal in mind.

It won’t be easy and the precedents aren’t good, even before Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Agreement: In the 1990s, Bill Clinton’s Democratic administration participated in negotiations on the Kyoto Protocol, the most for years. Important International Agreement. Climate, but the Senate never confirmed it.

The first phase of Biden’s climate plan was to make it clear, in front of the United States and the rest of the world, that he wanted to do something: “Leaders Summit on Climate”, with the recently held international videoconferencing meeting. Days, he actually took this step. The second will get Congress to approve legislation on infrastructure introduced in March that would encourage incentives for electric cars and incentives for energy generation plants from renewable sources, funding for energy innovation and banning emissions for power plants The work will begin in 2035.

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If passed, it would be America’s most important climate law, but it does not necessarily go through the Senate, where Democrats have a majority of just one vote. Many Republicans have said that Biden’s proposed climate policies are too aggressive, with countries producing high emissions such as China and India have never committed to reducing them. Republican Senator John Barraso of Wyoming said, “The president’s plan would cost families a fortune in bills and harm American competition in the world.” To counter these arguments, Biden is trying to present the energy transition as a great opportunity for economic growth and creating new jobs.

But even if the infrastructure law is passed, it will not be enough to reach the target set for 2030. According to McKibben, the biggest challenge will be to oppose the interests of large fossil fuel companies. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is trying to enforce stricter regulations on cars and trucks and its pollution. Methane emissions (Another greenhouse gas) due to the extraction and distribution of fossil fuels: but even these regulations are not yet law and can be blocked by both Congress and the courts.

Despite the viability of Biden’s promise, there are those who have criticized him for being insufficient for his commitment to the climate. According to the non-profit organization Climate Action Tracker, conforming to the more ambitious goal set by the Paris Agreement, which does not exceed the global average temperature increase of 1.5 ° C, Biden. Should be Promises emissions reductions of 57–63 percent compared to 2005 levels and supports forms to help developing countries reduce their emissions.

“If you ask me whether the US goal is reasonable and ambitious, the criterion for answering should not be whether it will be accepted by the Senate” he told Sivan Kartha, a scientist and member of the Stockholm Environment Institute All New York Times. Is among the authors of one discovery Given the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced in history, by various organizations, the United States should reduce its emissions by 70 percent from 2005 levels by 2030 to be ‘fair’ to the rest of the world. Happened. According to Kartha, one must ask: “What has the United States given its power and its historical responsibility in creating the problem?”

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For environmentalists such as Karatha, it would be appropriate to take past emissions into account and give lower middle-income countries like India more time to make their economies more environmentally sustainable.

China, another country that has contributed significantly to greenhouse gas emissions long after the United States, has not promised emissions reductions until 2030: for that year it is committed to peak emissions and has promised that It will come “Carbon Neutrality”The situation in which for every ton of greenhouse gases that circulates in the atmosphere, the same volume is removed by 2060. It is currently the first country to have total greenhouse gas emissions, but if we consider emissions in relation to the number of inhabitants, it is still far below the United States. On the other hand, India has not yet set any date to reach its emission peak.

The Biden administration’s strategy was to try to set an emission reduction target that was not easy to achieve, yet may be politically feasible. One of the ideas behind this strategy and the organization of the Summit of Leaders on Climate is to persuade other countries to follow the example of the United States.

The United States and the European Union are responsible for a quarter of current greenhouse gas emissions: even if they manage to meet their emission reduction targets for 2030 and 2050, they still need to achieve the real common goal Will require the contribution of other countries, to prevent the rise in temperature.

In conclusion, however, it would be necessary to judge the climate policies of the countries of the world based on the results obtained rather than on promises. Not only because it is not certain that they will be maintained, but also because there are different ways to reduce emissions and some are better than others over time: the Obama administration, for example, energy production with coal With the facility of transition from. natural gas. Achieving rapid reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, but possibly facilitating methane in the long run. For now, only an idea of ​​how Biden will try to cut US emissions in half in nine years remains to be seen.


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