- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 21, 2021

President Biden’s expected announcement that the U.S. will try to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 is getting swift pushback from every political direction ahead of a high-stakes virtual climate summit the administration is hosting Thursday and Friday.

The left wants Mr. Biden to pursue an even more aggressive target, while the right laments that meeting nonbinding benchmarks will devastate the U.S. economy while bigger polluters such as China do little to change their behavior.

The Biden administration said to expect aggressive targets at the two-day summit.

“We’re upping the ante on climate change and climate ambition,” an administration official told reporters on a call previewing the event. “We all know we must do more to bend the curve on global emissions and limit the rise in global temperature to [1.5] degrees Celsius.”

A 50% reduction in emissions below 2005 levels by 2030 would be significantly more aggressive than former President Barack Obama’s 2015 target to cut emissions by at least 26% below 2005 levels by 2025.

Still, Evan Weber with the Sunrise Movement called the 50% reduction target “nowhere near enough.”

“The science is clear — if the U.S. does not achieve much, much more by the end of this decade, it will be a death sentence for our generation and the billions of people at the front lines of the climate crisis in the U.S. and abroad,” said Mr. Weber, the group’s political director.

Another administration official pointed out that the U.S. is responsible for roughly 13% of the global emissions that contribute to climate change, meaning that the rest of the world must come along to meaningfully halt a rise in global temperatures.

“We’re looking for people to make announcements, to raise their ambition, to indicate next steps that they intend to be taking to help solve the climate problem,” they said.

All 40 world leaders Mr. Biden invited are expected to attend the summit. Those leaders include Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, even amid U.S. tensions with China and Russia in the broader foreign policy arena.

Republicans say Mr. Biden’s green energy agenda will stifle growth and won’t do much to slow a rise in global temperatures.

“Of course the Chinese are all for us cutting unilaterally and so is Europe — because it makes us less competitive. It harms us,” said Steve Milloy, a Trump-Pence Environmental Protection Agency transition team member.

Washington and Beijing agreed over the weekend to work together on climate change, but Mr. Milloy was skeptical that the Chinese government will follow through.

“China’s not cutting emissions, India’s not cutting emissions. Nobody in the developing world, which is 80% of the global population, is cutting emissions,” he said.

Ahead of the summit, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson laid out a commitment to cut emissions by 78% below 1990 levels by 2035, building on a previous target of a 68% cut by 2030.

The European Union on Wednesday announced a new target to cut emissions by 55% below 1990 levels, up from an earlier goal of 40%.

Leaders of developing countries undoubtedly will be looking for the U.S. and other countries that produce the most greenhouse gas emissions to make specific financial commitments to assist their efforts.

The administration of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro wants international financial commitments to go toward curbing deforestation efforts in the Amazon.

Under a 2009 agreement, wealthier countries are supposed to mobilize $100 billion annually by 2020 to help developing nations combat climate change, but the totals have fallen short of that benchmark.

Mr. Biden had moved on his first day in office to rejoin the Paris Agreement of 2015, which reaffirmed and built on the $100 billion commitment. The Paris Agreement set a goal of limiting the increase in global average temperature to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Former President Donald Trump had announced in 2017 that the U.S. would exit the agreement.

Mr. Biden will help kick off an initial session Thursday morning that is scheduled to feature appearances from Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, and more than two dozen world leaders, including Mr. Johnson, Mr. Xi, Mr. Putin and Mr. Bolsonaro.

An administration official said not to expect any bilateral or “side Zoom room” discussions at an event where the logistics are already a bit unwieldy given the virtual format and various time zones of all the participants’ home countries.

Pope Francis, who has spoken out on climate change, is scheduled to be among the featured speakers on the first day of the summit.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and former New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a U.N. special envoy for climate, are among the featured speakers on the second day.

The summit comes ahead of a planned U.N. Climate Change Conference in Scotland in November.

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