Biden to Announce Major Pledge to Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions
President Biden’s plan would require Americans to transform the way they drive, heat their homes and manufacture goods. Here’s the latest from Washington.,
President Biden will announce Thursday that the United States intends to cut planet-warming emissions nearly in half by the end of the decade, a target that would require Americans to transform the way they drive, heat their homes and manufacture goods.
The target, confirmed by three people briefed on the plan, is timed to a closely watched global summit meeting that Mr. Biden is hosting Thursday and Friday, which is aimed at sending a message that the United States is rejoining international efforts to fight global warming after four years of climate denial from the Trump administration.
A White House spokesman declined to comment on the U.S. target, which was first reported by The Washington Post.
The leaders of China, India and nearly 40 other countries are expected to join Mr. Biden virtually, and the United States hopes that the announcement of its new emissions goal will galvanize other nations to step up their own targets by the time nations gather again under United Nations auspices in November in Glasgow.
The new American goal nearly doubles the pledge that the Obama administration made to cut emissions 26 percent to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, although the country would have five more years to achieve it, according to the people familiar with the target who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it. The 2030 target will be a range that will aim to cut emissions around 50 percent from 2005 levels. It will not include detailed modeling showing how the United States proposes to meet its pledge, one administration official said.
The goal is largely in line with what environmental groups and big businesses, including McDonalds, Target and Google, have wanted. They and others argued that cutting emissions at least 50 percent from 2005 levels by the end of the decade is the only way to put the United States on a path to eliminate fossil fuel pollution by the middle of the century.
On Tuesday, Gina McCarthy, Mr. Biden’s top climate change adviser, hinted that the United States would set that ambitious goal.
“I would argue that there’s opportunities for us to be able to be very aggressive, and we’re going to take that opportunity,” she said in an interview with N.P.R.
Meeting it, however, will be a steep challenge.
Nathan Hultman, director of the Center for Global Sustainability at the University of Maryland, and other energy experts described the 50 percent goal as attainable, but only with what Mr. Hultman described as “pretty significant action across all sectors of the American economy.”
Gina McCarthy worked six or seven days a week, 12 to 14 hours a day, to produce America’s first real effort to combat climate change, a suite of Obama-era regulations that would cut pollution from the nation’s tailpipes and smokestacks and wean the world’s largest economy from fossil fuels.
Then the administration of Donald J. Trump shredded the work of President Barack Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency chief before any of it could take effect.
Now Ms. McCarthy is back as President Biden’s senior climate change adviser, and this time, she is determined to make it stick.
She is the most powerful climate change official in the country other than Mr. Biden himself, and her charge is not simply to reconstruct her Obama-era policies but to lead an entire government to tackle global warming, from the nation’s military to its diplomatic corps to its Treasury and Transportation Department. She will also lead negotiations with Congress for permanent new climate change laws that could withstand the next change of administration.
“I’ve got a small stronghold office, but I am an orchestra leader for a very large band,” Ms. McCarthy, 66, said in a speech in February.
Mr. Biden’s two-day global climate summit meeting, which begins Thursday, is his chance to proclaim America’s return to the international effort to stave off the most devastating impacts of a warming planet, but it is Ms. McCarthy’s re-emergence as well. Mr. Biden is expected to pledge that the United States will cut its planet-warming emissions by at least 50 percent below 2005 levels in the next decade.
The world has seen such promises before, with the Kyoto accords in the 1990s, then the Paris Agreement in the Obama era, only to see them discarded by subsequent Republican administrations. It will fall to Ms. McCarthy to prove the skeptics wrong.
The administration plans concurrent efforts to enact regulations to curb auto and power plant emissions, restrict fossil fuel development and conserve public lands while pressing Congress to pass the climate provisions in Mr. Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure bill, such as renewable power and electric vehicle programs.
Ms. McCarthy hopes to push the infrastructure bill further, possibly by mandating that power companies produce a certain percentage of their electricity from renewable sources, such as wind and solar. That will be a tough sell to many Republicans — but if it passes Congress, it could stand as the Biden administration’s permanent climate legacy, even if other rules are swept away by future presidents.
President Biden praised a guilty verdict in the murder trial of the former police officer Derek Chauvin, but called it a “too rare” step to deliver “basic accountability” for Black Americans who have been killed during interactions with the police.
“It was a murder in full light of day, and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see,” Mr. Biden said of the death of George Floyd, who died after Mr. Chauvin knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes, and whose death ignited nationwide protests. “For so many, it feels like it took all of that for the judicial system to deliver just basic accountability.”
Mr. Biden delivered his remarks to the nation hours after taking the unusual step of weighing in on the trial’s outcome before the jury had come back with a decision, and telling reporters that he had been “praying” for the “right verdict.”
“This can be a giant step forward in the march toward justice in America,” Mr. Biden said during his address.
Mr. Biden assumed the presidency during a national reckoning over race and has staked his political legacy around a promise to make racial equality, which includes an overhaul on policing, a central focus of his presidency. He has been outspoken about Mr. Floyd’s death, calling it a “wake up call” for the nation.
In the wake of a series of recent police-involved shootings and other violent episodes that have taken place over the course of the trial, he has repeatedly called for Congress to pass an ambitious bill on policing reform, named for Mr. Floyd and co-authored by the vice president.
On Tuesday afternoon, the White House canceled an earlier speech Mr. Biden had planned to deliver on his infrastructure plan so that he could watch the verdict come in alongside Kamala Harris, the vice president, and a group of other aides in his private dining room just off the Oval Office.
The jury’s deliberations had been closely tracked throughout the day: In the minutes before the verdict was delivered, White House aides were sprinting through the West Wing, phones in hand, and setting up a podium for Mr. Biden to deliver his remarks alongside Ms. Harris in Cross Hall. Just after the verdict was delivered the president was on the phone with members of Mr. Floyd’s family.
“We’re all so relieved,” Mr. Biden said to a group of people who included Ben Crump, the Floyd family’s attorney. “I’m anxious to see you guys, I really am. We’re gonna do a lot and we’re gonna stand until we get it done.”
Ms. Harris, who spoke before Mr. Biden gave remarks, called for the passage of the bill that would overhaul how police officers engage people in minority communities.
“Here’s the truth about racial injustice,” Ms Harris said. “It is not just a Black America problem or a people of color problem. It is a problem for every American. It is keeping us from fulfilling the promise of liberty and justice for all, and it is holding our nation back from realizing our full potential.”
Mr. Biden can trace his political success, in part, to how he responded to the nationwide protests that rose up in the wake of Mr. Floyd’s death.
Last June, as his predecessor, Donald J. Trump, stoked tensions by tweet, calling the protests a result of the “radical left” and threatening to send in the National Guard, Mr. Biden traveled to Houston with his wife, Jill, to meet with Mr. Floyd’s relatives.
The hour he spent with the Floyd family effectively created a split-screen with Mr. Trump that boosted his war chest and added momentum to his campaign.
“I won’t fan the flames of hate,” Mr. Biden said at the time. “I will seek to heal the racial wounds that have long plagued this country — not use them for political gain.”
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Wednesday delivered an annual address replete with threats against the West but, despite intense tensions with Ukraine, stopped short of announcing new military or foreign policy moves.
Russia’s response will be “asymmetric, fast and tough” if it is forced to defend its interests, Mr. Putin said, pointing to what he claimed were Western efforts at regime change in neighboring Belarus as another threat to Russia’s security.
He pledged that Russia “wants to have good relations with all participants of international society,” even as he noted that Russia’s modernized nuclear weapons systems were at the ready.
“The organizers of any provocations threatening the fundamental interests of our security will regret their deeds more than they have regretted anything in a long time,” Mr. Putin told a hall of governors and members of Parliament. “I hope no one gets the idea to cross the so-called red line with Russia — and we will be the ones to decide where it runs in every concrete case.”
Mr. Putin’s speech had been widely anticipated, with about 100,000 Russian troops massed on Ukraine’s border and Ukraine’s president warning openly of the possibility of war. Some analysts had speculated that Mr. Putin might use his annual state of the nation address to announce a pretext for sending troops into Ukraine.
But that scenario did not come to pass, even as Russia’s enormous military presence near Ukraine’s borders showed no sign of receding. Mr. Putin also made no reference to the jailed opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny, whose supporters planned to hold protests across the country on Wednesday.
Instead, Mr. Putin spent most of his speech on domestic issues, acknowledging Russians’ discontent with the hardships of the pandemic. He outlined programs to subsidize summer camp for children, smooth the system for child-support payments to single mothers and move more social services online.
Still, it was too early to tell whether Mr. Putin, 68, was pulling back from the brink. Now in his third decade in power, he appears more convinced than ever of his special, historic role as the father of a reborn Russian nation, fighting at home and abroad against a craven, hypocritical, morally decaying West.
“This sense of superiority mixed with arrogance gives him a feeling of power, and this is dangerous,” said Tatiana Stanovaya, a Russian analyst who has studied Mr. Putin for years. “When you think you are more powerful and more wise than everyone else around you, you think you have a certain historical mandate for more wide-ranging action.”
Mr. Putin has made moves in recent weeks that, even by his standards, signal an escalation in his conflict with those he perceives as enemies, foreign and domestic. Russian prosecutors last week filed suit to outlaw Mr. Navalny’s organization, a step that could result in the most intense wave of political repression in post-Soviet Russia. And in Russia’s southwest, Mr. Putin has built up a military force, the Kremlin has indicated, that could be prepared to move into neighboring Ukraine.
President Moon Jae-in of South Korea has a message for the United States: President Biden needs to engage now with North Korea.
In an interview with The New York Times, Mr. Moon pushed the American leader to kick start negotiations with the government of Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, after two years in which diplomatic progress stalled, even reversed. Denuclearization, the South Korean president said, was a “matter of survival” for his country.
He also urged the United States to cooperate with China on North Korea and other issues of global concern, including climate change. The deteriorating relations between the superpowers, he said, could undermine any negotiations over denuclearization.
It was part plea, part sales pitch from Mr. Moon, who sat down with The Times as the United States tries to rebuild its relationships in the region with an eye to countering China’s influence, and North Korea builds up its nuclear arsenal. Mr. Moon, who is set to meet with Mr. Biden next month in Washington, appeared ready to step once again into the role of mediator between the two sides.
In the interview, Mr. Moon was proud of his deft diplomatic maneuvering in 2018, when he steered the two unpredictable leaders of North Korea and the United States to meet in person. He was also pragmatic, tacitly acknowledging that his work to achieve denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula has since unraveled.
President Donald J. Trump left office without removing a single North Korean nuclear warhead. Mr. Kim has resumed weapons tests.
“He beat around the bush and failed to pull it through,” Mr. Moon said of Mr. Trump’s efforts on North Korea.
Mr. Biden has started reversing many of his predecessor’s foreign policy decisions. But Mr. Moon warned that it would be a mistake to kill the 2018 Singapore agreement between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim that set out broad goals for denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.
“I believe that if we build on what President Trump has left, we will see this effort come to fruition under Biden’s leadership,” he said.
What had been an easy promise on the campaign trail — to reverse what Democrats called President Donald J. Trump’s “racist” limits on accepting refugees — has become a test of what is truly important to the new occupant of the White House, according to an account of his decision making from more than a dozen Biden administration officials, refugee resettlement officials and others.
Mr. Biden was eager for the praise that would come from vastly increasing Mr. Trump’s record-low limit, people familiar with his thinking said, and he decided to increase the cap even earlier than the usual start of the fiscal year, Oct. 1.
But only weeks into Mr. Biden’s presidency, immigration and the border had already become major distractions from his efforts to defeat the coronavirus pandemic and to persuade Congress to invest trillions of dollars into the economy — issues championed by aides like Ron Klain, the White House chief of staff, as more central to his presidency.
Now, a decision to raise the refugee limit to 62,500 — as Mr. Biden had promised only weeks earlier to members of Congress — would invite from Republicans new attacks of hypocrisy and open borders even as the president was calling for bipartisanship.
It was terrible timing, he told officials, especially with federal agencies already struggling to manage the highest number of migrant children and teenagers at the border in more than a decade.