US sets first 2030 climate goal as Canada and Japan increase targets

US President Joe Biden has unveiled a new 2030 climate target, entailing a 50-52% reduction in emissions against a 2005 baseline. Canada and Japan, meanwhile, have increased their 2030 climate targets. 

US sets first 2030 climate goal as Canada and Japan increase targets

Today's summit will run from 8am to 3pm Washington time

Earlier this year, Democratic representatives introduced a bill that will require the US to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 if passed.

While popular across the green economy, the bill, for many, was lacking in clarity to back up this long-term aim. A string of more than 300 businesses wrote to Biden earlier this month, calling for a 2030 goal that would at least see emissions halved. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2018 report on 1.5C notably outlined how halving global net emissions by 2030 would offer the best chance of net-zero by mid-century.

Now, with Biden hosting an Earth Day summit with more than 40 world leaders today (22 April) and tomorrow (23 April), this advice has been taken on board and that the US Government will announce a new Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement and legally binding 2030 target.

The Climate Action Tracker website claims that, if the 50-52% reduction is agreed upon, the global gap between current warming trajectories and 1.5C could be closed by 5-10%.

Nonetheless, it would not, the site states, be 1.5C compatible. The commitment would need to be a 57-63% reduction for this level of alignment.

The summit is set to begin at 8am local time and run through to 3pm.

International ambitions 

The UK’s main announcement – that it has adopted proposals from the Climate Change Committee (CCC) to cut emissions by 78% by 2035 against a 1990 baseline – was leaked on Tuesday (20 April) and subsequently the official announcement was moved forwards.

Similarly, the EU agreed its long-contested 2030 climate target on Wednesday (21 April) after a 14-hour negotiation session. Parties reached an agreement to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by “at least 55%” by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. While this goal is bloc-wide, each member state will also be required to meet the target.

Nations to have already made commitments at the summit itself include Canada and Japan. 

Canada moved last year to set a 2050 net-zero target. The nation had already committed to cut emissions by 30% by 2030, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has today announced that 40-45% will now be the goal. Canada is using a 2005 baseline. 

While some green groups had called for a 50% target, including the Canadian Government’s own Environment and Climate Change Minister, and others had pressed for 60%, it is stronger than the 36% posed by some parties. 

Japan also set a 2050 net-zero target in 2020. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has now confirmed that the 2030 interim goal will be a 46% reduction in net emissions against a 2013 baseline. Suga also said that, if possible, 50% should be delivered. 

“Responding to climate change will be a driving force of Japan’s economic growth,” Suga said. “As a country that supports the world’s manufacturers, we would like to lead the global discussion by setting an ambitious goal.”

As with the targets from Canada and the US, some green groups believe Japan’s new aim is not yet 1.5C-aligned. 

Green economy reaction 

“By announcing a bold target of cutting emissions 50-52% below 2005 by the end of the decade, President Biden has met the moment and the urgency that the climate crisis demands,” the US Environmental Defense Fund’s international president Nathaniel Keohane said. “This target aligns with what the science says is necessary to put the world on the path to a safer climate, and vaults the US into the top tier of world leaders on climate ambition.”

World Economic Forum managing director Dominic Waughray said: “President Biden’s Leaders’ Summit on Climate is unprecedented and ambitious national commitments will help the world tackle the climate crisis. The summit changes the dynamic for Earth Day.

“Biden’s national strategy for climate action brings an “all of government” approach, which will help scale and accelerate private-sector efforts. It effectively stimulates a ‘win-win’ public-private scenario for climate action.”

Power Shift Africa’s director Mohamed Adow said: “After four years of ignorant and cowardly climate policy from the White House under Donald Trump, it’s great to see a President that is aware of the need for action and of America’s responsibility to show leadership on this issue.

“The plan laid out by President Biden is hugely welcome and shows the kind of ambition we need to see from rich, polluting nations.  But truth must be told. It still falls short of what is needed from the biggest historical emitter and wealthiest country to stabilise global heating to below 1.5C.

“Until now, the actions of all rich countries including those in Europe as well as Australia, Japan and Canada have been hugely underwhelming. This summit is a major turning point that now shifts attention towards the laggards and concrete near-term actions. They need to come back with much stronger pledges, including climate finance for poorer nations.”

Sarah George

Comments (1)


    Surely there’s an error in the third line of the article. The baseline is obviously not 2050! I think you meant to publish 2005. What I want to understand is why the recently released US targets are not in reference to the 1990 emissions baseline? And why are Japan’s new targets in reference to 2013? Why this confusion? The Paris climate accord sets the reduction targets in relation to the 1990 emissions baseline.

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