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Blog Post 4 May 2021

Action on climate change: President Biden’s first 100 days

On 22 April, an estimated one billion people joined Earth Day to take action to protect the planet. On the same day, the US pledged to cut carbon emissions by 50-52% below 2005 levels by 2030, at a summit hosted by US President Joe Biden.

In January, we investigated some of the details of the Biden-Harris plan to tackle climate change, which has been described as the most ambitious of any US president yet.

But has President Biden delivered on his promises? Here, we highlight five key climate actions taken by the US President during his first 100 days in office.

January: Recommit US to the Paris Agreement

Throughout his election campaign, Biden promised that one of his first acts in office would be to recommit the US to the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement, bringing America back in line with global greenhouse gas emission reductions.

On the same day he was sworn into office, President Biden made good on this promise and signed the US back up to the climate agreement, which aims to limit global warming to 1.5°C. The US is currently the second biggest polluter after China, so this recommitment signals an ambition to get the country’s emissions under control and reduce its contribution to climate change.

February: Establish a working group to develop low carbon technologies

In February, the Biden-Harris administration created a new Climate Innovation Working Group to help coordinate efforts to develop affordable, low carbon technologies that can help the US reach net zero by 2050.

Key focus areas for the climate group include net zero carbon buildings, energy storage, low-cost zero carbon vehicles and public transport systems, as well as affordable low carbon heating and cooling systems like heat pumps. This innovation effort will be supported by $10 million in funding from the US Department of Energy to support the development of low carbon technologies.

March: Invest $174 billion in electric vehicles

On 31 March, President Biden announced a $2 trillion infrastructure plan to reshape the US economy and invest in clean energy infrastructure. If signed into law, the proposal will help the US drastically cut its contribution to climate change.

The American Jobs Plan includes $174 billion in spending to boost the market for electric vehicles (EVs), including plans to install half a million charging stations across the US by 2030, as well as incentives for Americans to buy EVs.

April: Cooperate with China on climate change

In April, Biden sent climate envoy John Kerry to China in a bid to cooperate over plans to drastically cut emissions. The visit to Shanghai resulted in a commitment from both sides to work together on the pressing issue of climate change, which must be “addressed with the seriousness and urgency that it demands,” according to a joint statement.

The US and China together account for almost half of all greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change. Kerry and his counterpart in China, Xie Zhenhua, agreed to discuss specific emission reduction actions, including carbon capture and hydrogen, as well as agreeing to financially help developing countries switch to low carbon energy sources.

Earth Day: Set a bold target to halve emissions by 2030

On Earth Day, President Biden announced a new goal to cut the country’s carbon emissions by 50-52% below 2005 levels by 2030, doubling America’s previous target. Biden hopes that the new ambitious target will encourage other nations – in particular, big emitters like China and India – to go further in their own climate commitments, ahead of the UN’s critical COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November.

The US President set out the new target at a climate summit on 22 April, to which he invited 40 leaders to spur efforts from the world’s major economies to tackle the climate emergency. The summit also saw Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga pledge to reduce his country’s emissions by 46% in 2030 compared to 2013 levels – up from a previous target of just 26%. And Canada’s Justin Trudeau increased his country’s 2030 emissions target to 40-45%.

Keeping the momentum

Biden’s push to reposition the US as a leader in the international climate community ahead of the COP26 summit will be essential in the fight to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and tackle the climate emergency.

Other nations must take inspiration from the US and make their own bold commitments to reduce carbon emissions. As President Biden explained on Earth Day: “Our success in confronting the climate crisis will not be ours alone. It will be shaped, bolstered, and ultimately won by a united pledge from global leaders to set the world on a path to a clean energy future.”

Last updated: 27 April 2021