The new US president has taken an opposite posture regarding climate action compared with his predecessor. After rejoining the Paris agreement in his first day in office, Joe Biden has now taken another step after announcing on a virtual summit his plans to build a greener future for the US.
Until 2030, he has compromised to reduce emissions by 50%-52% below 2005 levels, setting a promising nationally determined contribution (NDC) as the US takes a very ambitious stance in the world panorama. Some notable commitments focus on support for electric cars, promoting renewable energy sources, investing in energy innovation and aid a transition to emissions-free systems.
According to a study by the OECD, “The impact of the containment measures put in place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic can impact the stringency of some current NDC targets”. However, the magnitude of this impact will depend on factors like the timeframe of the NDC and the pace of economic recovery. The study in question refers that the impact becomes more noticeable when the NDC is framed until 2025, unlike the US which sets objectives until 2030, since the reduction of greenhouse gases emissions due to COVID-19 restrictions is more impactful in a shorter timeframe. Furthermore, the quickness of the return to business as usual will affect the relationship between the impact of the pandemic induced restrictions in the NDC progress and the NDC time target. As one of the drivers of the possible impact on the progress on NDC is the fall in activity of high polluting sectors. If these get back to operating in the same manner, then the quicker the return to full activity and the smaller will the benefit to the NDC be.
This US proposal is an ambitious step in the right direction. During current turbulent times, a greener stance from the US sends a good message. We are left to see if the COVID crisis is somewhat of a blessing in disguise, contributing to some progress on climate action.
- Buckle, S., et al. (2020), “Addressing the COVID-19 and climate crises: Potential economic recovery pathways and their implications for climate change mitigation, NDCs and broader socio-economic goals”, OECD/IEA Climate Change Expert Group Papers, No. 2020/04, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/50abd39c-en.