President Biden on Thursday called on the world to “step up” in the battle against climate change as he kicked off a two-day virtual climate summit with global leaders and others ahead of a U.N. conference this November.
“The United States isn’t waiting — we are resolving to take action,” Mr. Biden said.
He touted his $2.3 trillion infrastructure package that steers a good chunk to climate-related initiatives, like $174 billion for electric vehicles.
“By maintaining those investments and putting these people to work, the United States sets out on the road to cut [our] greenhouse gases in half by the end of this decade,” he said.
The president’s newly announced target of a 50-52% reduction in emissions below 2005 levels by 2030 goes well beyond former President Obama’s 2015 target to cut emissions by at least 26% below 2005 levels by 2025.
“No nation can solve this crisis on their own, as I know you all fully understand,” the president said. “All of us — all of us, particularly those of us who represent the world’s largest economies — we have to step up.”
Hitting the 50-52% target will require drastic, costly overhauls to the U.S. economy and Americans’ way of life and doesn’t necessarily mean the rest of the world will come along for the ride.
The two-day summit comes ahead of a planned United Nations Climate Change Conference in November in Scotland.
Some of the leaders said they welcomed the U.S. back into the fold on the issue.
“Thank you again, President Biden, for this meeting. It is so good to have the U.S. back on our side in the fight against climate change,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.
Mr. Biden had moved on his first day in office to get the U.S. back into the Paris Agreement of 2015 after former President Trump announced in 2017 that the U.S. would exit the accord.
Also speaking Thursday morning, Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated his country’s goals of hitting peak carbon emissions before 2030 and getting to carbon neutrality by 2060.
“China has committed to move from carbon peak to carbon neutrality in a much shorter time span than what might take many developed countries, and that requires extraordinary, hard efforts from China,” Mr. Xi said.
The U.S. and Beijing agreed over the weekend to work together on climate, though observers are skeptical that the Chinese government will actually follow through on meeting their emissions targets.
The United Kingdom and European Union are among those that announced new, more aggressive emissions targets in recent days.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the leaders need to demonstrate that climate change isn’t only an issue for far-left hippies.
“It’s vital for all of us to show that this is not all about some expensive, politically correct green act of bunny hugging, or however you want to put it,” Mr. Johnson said. “You know what I’m driving at, friends and colleagues. This is about growth and jobs, and I think the president was absolutely right to stress that.”
An administration official said recent commitments mean that countries accounting for more than half of the world’s economy are committed to emissions targets that will be required to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels — the ultimate aim of the 2015 Paris Agreement.
Environmentalists say the president’s target of cutting emissions in half by 2030 still isn’t aggressive enough, while conservatives say trying to meet it will decimate the U.S. economy and won’t necessarily bring the rest of the world along.
Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said the new U.S. targets will lead to higher energy prices and fewer jobs and will hurt America’s international competitiveness.
“As the president sets punishing targets for the country, America’s adversaries like China and Russia continue to increase emissions at will,” Mr. Barrasso said. “It’s no wonder President Biden won’t explain to the American people just how much his plan is going to cost them.”
• Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this report.