Biden Administration Listens to Scientists, Reaffirms US Can and Must Do More to Fight Global Climate Change

Statement by Dr. Rachel Cleetus, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Apr 22, 2021

WASHINGTON—Today, the Biden administration announced its goal for reducing U.S. global warming emissions under the Paris Agreement—also known as a Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC)—by between 50 and 52 percent below 2005 levels by the end of this decade. The announcement comes as President Joe Biden hosts world leaders for a two-day summit on climate action coinciding with Earth Day.

Below is a statement by Dr. Rachel Cleetus, policy director and lead economist for the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Dr. Cleetus has attended the U.N.’s international climate talks and partnered with the international community on climate and energy policies for more than 14 years.

“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. This necessary and achievable goal is an important signal that the U.S. is ready to be a responsible partner on climate action with the global community. Bold action could also help mobilize a coalition of high-ambition nations, giving us a fighting chance of keeping global climate goals within reach during this consequential decade.

“Reducing U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases by 50 to 52 percent 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 and ensure the world’s largest cumulative emitter of global warming pollution is doing its fair share. Communities on the frontlines of worsening heatwaves, storms, flooding, wildfires and drought cannot afford anything less than an all-in effort.

“In addition to reducing emissions, the United States has a responsibility to deliver on funding for developing countries as they transition toward a clean energy future and cope with the impacts of climate change. The Biden administration’s initial proposal of $1.2 billion for the international Green Climate Fund falls far short of what’s needed and must be increased further by Congress. It’s imperative that the United States commit to providing at least $8 billion to the Green Climate Fund over the next four years—ahead of the annual U.N. climate talks taking place this November in Glasgow, Scotland. Richer nations like the United States must also acknowledge the current plight of climate-vulnerable countries and the obligation to help address the pressing needs of these countries in a just manner.

“Action by the United States to rapidly decarbonize its economy and ramp up their climate finance contributions could go a long way in rebuilding trust with other U.N. member countries. After the U.S. Earth Day Summit, and before this year’s U.N. climate talks, the country will continue to engage other nations on the climate crisis, including via the G7, G20, as part of trade agreements, and in the U.N. Security Council.

“Our global climate commitments are tightly connected to our nation’s well-being and prosperity. When done right, U.S. policies and investments to advance clean energy and climate resilience can bring tremendous benefits—including good-paying jobs, public health improvements, redress for environmental injustices, and funding for a fair transition for coal workers and communities. Now, Congress must join the Biden administration in acting boldly to implement domestic climate policies that equitably benefit communities across the nation and propel a just economic recovery.”

UCS recently released a letter signed by over 1,500 scientists urging President Biden and his administration to commit to reducing U.S. heat-trapping emissions by at least 50 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Dr. Cleetus recently co-authored a Scientific American opinion article about the Earth Day summit available here.

More information on what a Biden presidency means for climate action can be found here.

For more on what needs to happen in the lead up to the U.N. climate talks in Glasgow (COP26), click here.