This will be a decisive decade to overcome the existential crisis of our time” US President Joe Biden
Joe Biden’s first day as president was marked by the welcome re-joining of the US to the Paris Agreement – climate change is front and centre of his strategy. Fast forward to late April, and he hosted (virtually, no less) the Leaders Summit on Climate, coinciding with Earth Day. Many countries used the summit to update and accelerate their own emission reduction targets (Nationally Determined Contributions), but the US stole the show. President Biden pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions (from a 2005 base) by at least 50% by 2030, doubling the previous target set under the Obama administration. The ambition and importance of this latest pledge should not be underestimated, not only due to potential impact on global emissions (the US is currently the largest emitter of CO2 outside of China), but also due to the global economic and monetary implications that may stem from it.
In spite of these recent pledges, Climate Action Tracker estimates that even accounting for the successful implementation of all known climate pledges on a global basis, there is an 80% probability of temperatures rising by over 2°C by 2100.1 This would fall short of the original objectives of the Paris Agreement and is even further away from the updated 1.5°C goal scientists believe is required to prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.
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Whilst we can expect a range of additional policies and initiatives to be announced ahead of the crucial COP26 conference in November, they are unlikely to be enough. Policymakers need to act in a more co-ordinated fashion with unprecedented speed and scale. Recent estimates put the cost of implementing changes required to meet the Paris Agreement at $73 trillion.2 But as the US Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen has emphasised: “The cost of inaction is too great. We must fuel a clean energy revolution.”