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Biden says U.S. will rise to the global challenge of climate change

President Joe Biden spoke at the COP27 climate negotiations in Egypt. The President said the United States will meet its promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030.
Gehad Hamdy/dpa
picture alliance via Getty
President Joe Biden spoke at the COP27 climate negotiations in Egypt. The President said the United States will meet its promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030.

In a speech at global climate negotiations in Egypt, President Joe Biden said the United States is following through on promises to cut its greenhouse gas emissions, and worked to buoy the image of the U.S. as a global leader against climate change.

"We're proving that good climate policy is good economic policy," President Biden told a room of representatives of governments around the world. "The United States of America will meet our emissions targets by 2030."

The U.S. has pledged to cut its greenhouse gas emissions between 50 and 52% by 2030. The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, which incentivizes electric cars and more efficient buildings, was a major step toward hitting that goal. Still, more will need to be done. Currently, U.S. emissions are expected to fall roughly 39% by 2030.

Biden did not announce any major new policies in his speech. This week, his administration has announced a slew of plans to crack down on greenhouse gas emissions from oil and gas facilities, invest in renewable energy and direct private money to climate projects overseas.

The president reiterated the importance of such measures. "The climate crisis is about human security, economic security, environmental security, national security and the very life of the planet," he said.

Biden arrives as climate talks are moving are slow

The speech comes about halfway through a climate summit that has thus far failed to produce any significant progress on major global sticking points.

Developing countries are frustrated with the U.S. and wealthier nations, who they say owe them reparations for increasingly destructive climate impacts. Top leaders for two countries that emit some of the most greenhouse gas pollution, India and China, aren't attending the talks. The war in Ukraine is also driving a new push for fossil fuels, as countries try to wean themselves off natural gas from Russia.

Biden also spoke as midterm election votes are still being counted in the U.S, determining which party will control Congress and, ultimately, whether and how the U.S. will fulfill its climate promises to the world.

Developing countries push U.S. for more climate aid

The Biden Administration has promised that the U.S. will contribute $11 billion a year by 2024 to help developing countries cope with climate change through projects like renewable energy or new infrastructure to protect cities. Wealthier nations generate the lion's share of climate pollution and they have promised $100 billion dollars by 2020 to lower-income countries, which have done little to fuel global warming.

But the industrialized world has fallen short so far of that goal. If Republicans take control of Congress, it is unclear how the White House will follow through on its pledge. Congressional Republicans have repeatedly blocked such international climate funding.

And Republican leaders have also historically opposed payments that developing countries say they're owed for the damage and destruction from climate change. Setting up a global fund for such payments is a major topic of discussion at the current summit.

In his speech, the President said he will continue to push for more funding from Congress. "The climate crisis is hitting hardest those countries and communities that have the fewest resources to respond and recover," he said.

Global emissions are still rising far too fast to avoid dangerous levels of warming. If countries meet their climate pledges, emissions will only fall around 3 percent by 2030. Studies show they need to fall by 45 percent to avoid even more destructive climate impacts, like powerful storms, heat waves, and melting ice sheets that will cause oceans to flood coastal cities.

Biden urged countries to cut their emissions as quickly as possible. "The science is devastatingly clear," he said. "We have to make vital progress by the end of this decade.

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Lauren Sommer covers climate change for NPR's Science Desk, from the scientists on the front lines of documenting the warming climate to the way those changes are reshaping communities and ecosystems around the world.
Rebecca Hersher (she/her) is a reporter on NPR's Science Desk, where she reports on outbreaks, natural disasters, and environmental and health research. Since coming to NPR in 2011, she has covered the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, embedded with the Afghan army after the American combat mission ended, and reported on floods and hurricanes in the U.S. She's also reported on research about puppies. Before her work on the Science Desk, she was a producer for NPR's Weekend All Things Considered in Los Angeles.