Biden unveils new target for U.S. economy-wide net GHG emissions reductions

April 26, 2021

by Paul Ciampoli
APPA News Director
April 26, 2021

President Joseph Biden on April 22 announced a new target for the U.S. to achieve a 50 to 52 percent reduction from 2005 levels in economy-wide net greenhouse gas emissions in 2030.

The announcement was made during the Leaders Summit on Climate that was hosted by Biden and included 40 world leaders and took place over two days with eight sessions.

“America’s 2030 target picks up the pace of emissions reductions in the United States, compared to historical levels, while supporting President Biden’s existing goals to create a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035 and net zero emissions economy by no later than 2050,” a White House fact sheet related to the announcement said.

Earlier this year, Biden directed the U.S. to rejoin the Paris Agreement. As part of re-entering the Paris Agreement, he also launched a whole-of-government process, organized through his National Climate Task Force, to establish the new 2030 emissions target – known as the “nationally determined contribution (NDC), a formal submission to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The April 22 announcement was the product of this government-wide assessment.

The Biden administration has not provided a detailed plan on how the overall goal will be met. It seems clear that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will pursue it using the legal authority it has under the Clean Air Act (CAA) and other statutes, but emission reductions are also premised on funding contained in previously announced infrastructure plans.

At present, there are enforceable GHG standards for new fossil fuel-fired electric generating units (EGUs), but it is unclear how the administration will proceed following the vacatur of the Affordable Clean Energy Rule by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. While the D.C. Circuit vacated both the ACE Rule and EPA’s repeal of the Clean Power Plan, upon request, the court issued a partial mandate to stay the vacatur of the Clean Power Plan until EPA can engage in a new rulemaking.

Also unclear is what part of the contemplated 50-52 percent reduction can be achieved through existing statutes and regulation and what part is contingent upon new legislative authority and/or funding.

Additional details on the summit are available here.