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EXPERT VIEWS-U.S. emissions pledge fires starting gun on climate race, analysts say

by Laurie Goering | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 22 April 2021 15:22 GMT

World leaders appear on screen during a virtual Climate Summit, seen from the East Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 22, 2021. REUTERS/Tom Brenner

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The U.S. pledge must now be met, and mirrored by other big-emitting nations to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, policy experts and green groups say

April 22 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - As the United States pledged to cut its climate-heating emissions by 50%-52% by 2030 on Thursday, climate and energy analysts said the new commitment puts the United States back in an international leadership role on climate action.

But the pledge - which some said still falls short of what is needed to achieve the most ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement to curb global warming - must now be met, and mirrored by other big-emitting nations to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, policy experts and green groups said.

Here is a selection of their comments:

Manish Bapna, CEO, World Resources Institute:

"This target will serve as the North Star for President Biden's domestic agenda. It will create a more equitable and prosperous society.

"At a time when the country is looking to bounce back from the pandemic, this goal will help unleash millions of good jobs, boost business and drive innovation.

"The new U.S. emissions target raises the bar for other countries as we head toward the U.N. climate summit in Glasgow. The message to other major emitters is loud and clear: It's your move next."

Rachel Cleetus, policy director and lead economist for the climate and energy program, Union of Concerned Scientists:

"After years of U.S. federal inaction to address its role in the climate crisis, today the Biden administration has presented all of us with significant reason for hope.

"Reducing U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases by 50-52% below 2005 levels by 2030 is a floor to build upon.

"Clear and compelling science tells us that deeper cuts are essential to stave off the worst climate impacts... Communities on the frontlines of worsening heatwaves, storms, flooding, wildfires and drought cannot afford anything less."

Mohamed Adow, director, Power Shift Africa think-tank:

"The plan laid out by President Biden is hugely welcome and shows the kind of ambition we need to see from rich, polluting nations.

"But truth must be told: It still falls short of what is needed from the biggest historical emitter and wealthiest country to stabilise global heating to below 1.5C.

"Until now the actions of all rich countries, including those in Europe as well as Australia, Japan and Canada, have been hugely underwhelming. This summit is a major turning point.

"After four years of Trump, they may have thought they could get away with mediocre commitments, but now the United States is showing them up."

Brandon Wu, director of policy and campaigns, ActionAid USA:

"The Biden administration's new climate target to halve emissions by 2030 ... is still deeply insufficient to meet the realities of the climate crisis.

"ActionAid is calling on the United States to commit to its 'fair share' of climate action - a 70% emissions cut by 2030, plus financial support so that developing countries can transition to greener economies and adapt and recover from the devastating impacts of climate change.

"As the world's biggest historical emitter, the United States has a responsibility to the most vulnerable nations on the frontlines of the climate crisis."

Mark Watts, executive director, C40 Cities:

"We are finally witnessing a shift: national leaders are recognising the scale of the climate emergency and moving towards the urgent action needed to avoid the catastrophic impacts on the horizon.

"The science is clear - global emissions must be cut by 50% in the next decade if we are to avoid climate breakdown.

"The change is already underway in C40 cities - with LA's commitment to providing a 97% carbon-free energy mix by 2030, Oslo's carbon targets enshrined into the city's budget (and) the world's largest 16,000 strong electric bus fleet in Shenzhen.

"Cities are demonstrating how governments at every level can meet the scale of the challenge and create thriving, healthy and prosperous communities for all."

Dorothy Guerrero, head of policy, Global Justice Now:

"It is a relief that the United States is back and trying to show climate leadership, after four years of hurtling in the wrong direction under President Trump.

"But what Biden is considering simply isn't good enough or fair enough for a country that has been one of the single largest carbon emitters for over a century.

"Rich countries like the United States and United Kingdom need to go far further and faster to make up for their historic planetary destruction."

Nathaniel Keohane, senior vice president for climate, Environmental Defense Fund:

"President Biden has met the moment and the urgency that the climate crisis demands. The message from the White House is clear: The United States is ready to go all-in to beat the climate crisis.

"This target aligns with what the science says is necessary to put the world on the path to a safer climate, and vaults the United States into the top tier of world leaders on climate ambition.

"For four years, the world wondered what's going on with the United States. Now they're going to have to race to keep up."

Helen Clarkson, CEO, The Climate Group:

"It's fantastic to see President Biden set out this commitment which is what the world needs as the U.S. rejoins the global consensus on climate.

"In the last four years, businesses, states, and individuals across the United States have delivered ambitious climate action in the absence of federal leadership. With support from an ambitious administration, so much more can be done.

"However, urgent work is needed to deliver these emissions reductions. This is the climate decade – we must halve emissions by 2030. We look forward to seeing the policies that the administration implements, matched by investment plans, to achieve these goals."

Abby Maxman, president, Oxfam America:

"President Biden's new climate target demonstrates that he and his administration are serious about tackling the climate crisis – but the hard work is just beginning.

"While this new commitment is a positive step in the right direction and worth celebrating, more action is urgently needed.

"The impact of climate change is already disproportionately harming those who are most vulnerable, especially women and marginalised communities."

Dipti Bhatnagar, international programme coordinator for climate justice and energy, Friends of the Earth International in Mozambique:

"The U.S. climate target unveiled today is magnitudes below the United States' fair share of climate action, both in terms of actual greenhouse gas reductions and providing finance and other assistance for communities in the Global South as they reel from a climate crisis they did not create.

"Droughts are destroying crops, cyclones are levelling homes and whole nations are literally disappearing. These climate goals are neither driven by justice and equity nor by science, and that is not acceptable."

Mitchell Bernard, president, Natural Resources Defense Council:

"This weds climate action to equitable recovery at home and U.S. leadership abroad. It aligns national policy with the minimum that science demands, the economy needs, and the global community is counting on the country to provide.

"This pledge rises to the urgency of the task. It's ambitious yet achievable. We can do this - and do it in a way that creates millions of good-paying jobs, makes our communities healthier and our society more equitable.

Dominic Waughray, managing director, World Economic Forum:

"While there is still much to be done, the United States' announcement is a major political turning point.

"Combined with existing commitments to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 from the EU, the UK and other major economies including China, Japan and the Republic of Korea, major governments are now committing to a significant effort required for the world to meet net-zero emissions by 2050."

(Reporting by Laurie Goering @lauriegoering; editing by Megan Rowling. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters. Visit http://news.trust.org/climate)

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