On Earth Day, at a virtual conference attended by the leaders of China, Russia, France, Germany, India and 35 other nations, President Joe Biden announced that the U.S. is committed to cutting its CO2 emissions in half by 2030.
“My administration is advancing the most ambitious climate agenda in our Nation’s history. Our clean energy plan will create millions of good-paying union jobs, ensure our economic competitiveness, and improve the health and security of communities across America,” said Biden.
“By making those investments and putting millions of Americans to work, the United States will be able to cut our greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030.”
The announcement represents the United States’ “nationally determined contribution” for the purposes of the Paris Climate Accord, which the Biden administration rejoined earlier this year.
Beyond the pledge, however, the announcement included only limited specifics about how the United States will achieve a radical reduction in carbon emissions by the end of the decade.
According to the White House, the target was derived from a careful industry-by-industry analysis.
It incorporates a previously-announced plan for a CO2-free electrical power sector by 2035; higher fuel efficiency for cars and trucks; support for the electric vehicle market; renewable fuel pilot programs, including options for aviation; support for early-stage renewable hydrogen production; cuts in emissions of methane and other non-CO2 GHGs; and “ocean-based solutions” for carbon absorption.
An up-to-the-minute analysis by Dr. Nathan Hultman of the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy outlined what Biden’s proposed 50-52 percent cut by 2030 would likely look like.
While achievable, it would require significant regulatory action and new measures from Congress – like tax credits for electric vehicles and new investments in green R&D and infrastructure.
According to Dr. Hultman’s analysis, the electricity sector would see the biggest changes, contributing about half of the total reduction.
Coal-fired power plants without carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) would have to close.
Power from natural gas power plants would have to fall by a third, and new gas power plants would have to be built with CCS technology.
New renewable power sources would have to be built out at scale, quadrupling the capacity in operation today.
In road transport, more than two thirds of all new cars and SUVs sold in 2030 would have to be electric, along with ten percent of new trucks. In the oil and gas sector, fugitive methane emissions would have to be cut by 60 percent.
However, the Biden administration’s plan was met with skepticism on the left and the right. Noting that the target date lies well beyond the end of Biden’s maximum term in office, the climate advocacy group Extinction Rebellion described the announcement as an empty gesture.
“Biden is fiddling with dates and targets as the ocean rises,” said spokesman Reilly Polka of Extinction Rebellion DC.
Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) warned that the plan would “kill jobs” and pointed to low emissions compliance by other Paris Accord signatory nations.
“China, for example, has just kept emitting more, and done it shamelessly.
Their share of greenhouse gas emissions are now nearly double that of the United States,” said Sen. McConnell in a statement.
“Democrats’ zeal for imposing costly environmental agendas on our own nation is not something our biggest foreign competitors seem to share.”
The American Petroleum Institute issued a statement of broad support for reducing carbon emissions, and it said that it would work with the administration to ensure that any regulatory initiatives meet the needs of the private sector.
“As the administration reviews the impacts of climate change on the financial sector, any future regulatory actions must be workable for all industries, support access to capital for all sectors, and avoid a one-size-fits-all, prescriptive approach that would only stifle the innovative work underway in the private sector to manage climate-related risks and opportunities,” said API Vice President of Corporate Policy Stephen Comstock.
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