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Latest Updates: Biden’s Climate Summit


Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

President Biden on Thursday will commit the United States to halving its greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the decade, White House officials said, a target that can be met only with a steep and rapid decline in oil, gas and coal use by virtually every sector of the economy.

Mr. Biden will formally make the announcement at 8 a.m. as he welcomes 40 world leaders to a virtual two-day summit on climate change, using Earth Day to proclaim America’s return to a position of global leadership on the issue and to urge other countries to make equally steep cuts.

The new target aims to see U.S. emissions drop 50 to 52 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, White House officials said.

That is a significant step up from the Obama administration’s pledge of a 25 percent to 28 percent reduction by 2025 and it is meant to signal that Mr. Biden’s decision to rejoin the Paris Agreement on climate change is just the start of an aggressive effort that will include trying to press other nations forward.

The political goal of the summit is clear: Mr. Biden wants to demonstrate that former President Donald J. Trump’s approach to climate change was an aberration. Mr. Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris climate agreement, shredded every major domestic climate policy and mocked the established science of climate change.Mr. Biden will declare that the United States is back, ready to reinstate climate rules and accelerate a shift of the world’s largest economy away from fossil fuels.

“The United States is not waiting, the costs of delay are too great, and our nation is resolved to act now,” the White House statement said.

Speaking with reporters Wednesday night, one senior administration official said the new target would give the United States significant leverage for pushing other countries to do more and hinted at new target announcements on Thursday from Canada, Japan, Argentina and Korea — though not from China, the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter.

Environmental activists, some major business groups and many Democrats called the new target an ambitious but attainable goal necessary to keep global warming from reaching crisis levels.

“The administration’s emission reduction goals are technologically feasible and well within our reach,” said Senator Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts.

A fact sheet released by the White House reiterates policies the Biden administration hopes to enact, such as clean energy development funded by the president’s infrastructure package and new regulations on automobile emissions. But it does not provide a detailed road map for driving down emissions in each sector.

Mr. Biden will be hard-pressed to win Republican support for his commitment, and without it, he will face skepticism that his promises will stick any more than President Barack Obama’s did.

“The American people don’t need arbitrary pledges or Democrats’ command-and-control approach that could cripple our economy without addressing the true problem that is global emissions,” Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the House Republican leader, said in a statement.

Senator John Barrasso, Republican of Wyoming, said that the president was “unilaterally committing America to a drastic and damaging emissions pledge” that would punish the U.S. economy while “America’s adversaries like China and Russia continue to increase emissions at will.”

Officially, nations that are party to the Paris agreement are required to announce their new targets for emissions cuts in time for a United Nations conference in Scotland in November. But by publicly committing to a bold new target seven months ahead of the deadline, Mr. Biden hopes to encourage other leaders to follow suit.

It remains to be seen, however, how credible or effective Mr. Biden’s message might be. Thus far, world leaders have welcomed the United States’ return to the Paris agreement. But they are also wary of the country’s history of about-faces on climate change: President Bill Clinton pushed for the world’s first climate treaty, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, only to see his successor, George W. Bush, declare that the United States would not be party to the deal. President Barack Obama helped broker the 2015 Paris agreement; Mr. Trump announced America’s withdrawal from it just over a year later.

Climate change activists in New York demonstrated during a global day of action in 2019.
Credit…Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press

President Biden’s climate summit will begin on Thursday, Earth Day, and will feature a host of high-profile speakers and attendees, including heads of state and business leaders — and Pope Francis. Here is a breakdown of the biggest names and what the Biden administration is hoping to accomplish.

President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will open the summit at 8 a.m. on Thursday with remarks that will highlight the importance of global efforts to reduce carbon emissions. Pope Francis will speak later on Thursday.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and David Malpass, the World Bank president, who has recently expressed support for a net-zero carbon future, will join a morning session on financing climate change solutions. In the afternoon, speakers will highlight climate work on the local level and discuss security challenges posed by global warming.

The summit will resume on Friday with John Kerry, Mr. Biden’s top climate envoy, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel joining a session on the importance of technological innovation in reducing carbon emissions. In a later session on the economic benefits of combating climate change, Bill Gates, the Microsoft founder, will speak as the founder of Breakthrough Energy, an investment fund that supports projects to reduce carbon emissions.

President Xi Jinping of China, the United States’ biggest rival on the world stage, has said he will attend the virtual summit. So have Presidents Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, with whom the Biden administration is trying to negotiate a plan to protect the Amazon rainforest.

A number of prominent American allies are expected to be present, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany. Other key attendees include Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, President Moon Jae-in of South Korea and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan — leaders from whom the Biden administration has been trying to secure commitments on carbon emission reduction targets.

King Salman of Saudi Arabia, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico are also expected to attend. The White House has invited more than 40 world leaders in total.

Mr. Biden will announce 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 new American goal nearly doubles the pledge made by the Obama administration, and the Biden administration hopes the announcement will galvanize other nations to increase their own targets.

Steam billowing from a coal plant in Utah in 2019. The International Energy Agency said on Tuesday that coal demand was set to soar this year.
Credit…Brandon Thibodeaux for The New York Times

One of the most dissected speeches at the virtual climate summit hosted by President Biden on Thursday and Friday will be the one by his counterpart from China, Xi Jinping.

That is because China is currently the world’s biggest producer of greenhouse gas emissions and the biggest consumer of the single-biggest source of emissions: coal.

China continues to build new coal plants at home and abroad, part of a global trend that threatens to undermine the world’s chances of slowing down climate change.




+80 gigawatts of coal power

China continues to build more new coal power plants than it retires. In 2020, it added more coal capacity than was retired worldwide.

Outside of China, countries adding the most new coal power capacity include India, Japan, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Coal plant retirements are largely happening in the United States and Europe.

China continues to build more new coal power plants than it retires. In 2020, it added more coal capacity than was retired worldwide.

+80 gigawatts of coal power

Outside of China, countries adding the most new coal power capacity include India, Japan, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Coal plant retirements are largely happening in the United States and Europe.

China continues to build more new coal power plants than it retires. In 2020, it added more coal capacity than was retired worldwide.

+80 gigawatts of coal power

Outside of China, countries adding the most new coal power capacity include India, Japan, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Coal plant retirements are largely happening in the United States and Europe.

+80 gigawatts of coal power

China continues to build more new coal power plants than it retires. In 2020, it added more coal capacity than was retired worldwide.

+80 gigawatts of coal power

Outside of China, countries adding the most new coal power capacity include India, Japan, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Coal plant retirements are largely happening in the United States and Europe.

China continues to build more new coal power plants than it retires. In 2020, it added more coal capacity than was retired worldwide.

+80 gigawatts of coal power

+80 gigawatts of coal power

Outside of China, countries adding the most new coal power capacity include India, Japan, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Coal plant retirements are largely happening in the United States and Europe.

China continues to build more new coal power plants than it retires. In 2020, it added more coal capacity than was retired worldwide.

+80 gigawatts of coal power

+80 gigawatts of coal power

Outside of China, countries adding the most new coal power capacity include India, Japan, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Coal plant retirements are largely happening in the United States and Europe.

China continues to build more new coal power plants than it retires. In 2020, it added more coal capacity than was retired worldwide.

+80 gigawatts of coal power

Outside of China, countries adding the most new coal power capacity include India, Japan, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Coal plant retirements are largely happening in the United States and Europe.


In 2020, China added more coal capacity than the rest of the world retired. India and Southeast Asia are also expanding their coal fleets, though neither as fast as they were a few years ago.

The International Energy Agency said on Tuesday that coal demand was set to soar this year. That’s bad for air pollution in the areas where coal is burned and mined. It also makes it harder to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by half by 2030.

The agency’s chief, Fatih Birol, called those findings “a dire warning.”

Alok Sharma is the president of the next round of international climate talks, which are formally known as the Conference of the Parties, or COP26.
Credit…Alain Jocard/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Alok Sharma, the British politician in charge of organizing crucial international climate negotiations later this year, said he would look for two important signals from the White House summit on climate change: how many countries promise to raise climate ambition by 2030, and how much money is put on the table to address climate change.

But Mr. Sharma, who is responsible for rallying countries to raise their climate ambitions, also sought to temper expectations. The White House event is one of several meetings of world leaders to be held before the international talks, formally known as the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties, or COP26, scheduled for Glasgow in November.

“I want to see we are making appreciable progress on the road to COP26,” Mr. Sharma, the president of the gathering, which is run by the United Nations, said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “There will be other junctures.”

He declined to speak about any specific emission-reduction targets that the White House is expected to announce but said he was “encouraged” by his conversations with John Kerry, the U.S. special envoy for climate change. He said he was eager to hear China’s plans, noting that other countries in Asia, notably Japan and South Korea, had already announced that they expected to draw down emissions to net zero by 2050, a full 10 years before China.

“You’re seeing movement in the region. I hope that will encourage all big economies to follow suit,” he said. “China is the biggest emitter, and we want them to work together with us to tackle climate change.”

Mr. Sharma defended his decision to convene that conference in person. Some critics have objected to such a gathering when many people in poorer countries lack access to vaccines against the coronavirus. The conference, originally planned for November 2020, has already been postponed once, he said, adding that the nitty-gritty of negotiations is best done in person, not virtually.

“We need to get on,” he said. “We need to have this conference in November. That’s what we are planning for.”

Early evidence suggests that a Trump-era tax incentive has thus far mostly fueled real estate development in areas like parts of Brooklyn that were already becoming richer and whiter.
Credit…Stefano Ukmar for The New York Times

The Biden administration is weighing how to overhaul a Trump-era tax incentive that was pitched as a way to drive investment to economically depressed swaths of the country but which early evidence suggests has primarily fueled real estate development in areas that were already becoming richer and whiter.

The so-called opportunity zone program, a creation of President Donald J. Trump’s 2017 tax law that Mr. Biden vowed on the campaign trail to reform, gives tax breaks to certain investors who pour money into designated areas.

Mr. Trump claimed the zones were pulling large amounts of investment into impoverished neighborhoods, particularly Black ones. But the most comprehensive study of investment in the zones to date — released last week by a pair of researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, who were granted access to anonymous tax returns filed electronically — contradicts that assessment.

The study suggests that in 2019, of the 8,000 census tracts designated by state officials as opportunity zones using criteria set under the Trump administration, only about 16 percent received any investment at all. Rural areas received almost none.

Vanita Gupta was the head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division during the Obama administration.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

The Senate voted to confirm Vanita Gupta as associate attorney general on Wednesday, making her the first civil rights lawyer or woman of color to serve as the Justice Department’s No. 3 official.

Ms. Gupta will oversee the department’s vast civil division, which is tasked with defending the Biden administration in court, as well as its antitrust, tax, and environment and natural resources divisions. She will also oversee the Civil Rights Division, which she once led, at a time when the Biden administration has vowed to use every tool at its disposal to combat systemic racism.

Ms. Gupta was confirmed 51 to 49, largely along party lines. Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, broke with her party after groups representing Alaska Native women, survivors of domestic violence and other communities said they supported Ms. Gupta’s nomination.

“I was impressed not only with her passion that she carries but the work that she performs,” Ms. Murkowski said on the Senate floor. She added that, while some of Ms. Gupta’s previous public statements troubled her, she would “give the benefit of the doubt to a woman who I believe has demonstrated through her professional career to be committed to matters of political justice.”

Once Ms. Gupta is sworn in this week, the Justice Department’s top three officials will be in place. Lisa O. Monaco was sworn in on Wednesday as deputy attorney general, a day after the Senate confirmed her.

Ms. Gupta, 46, rose to national prominence soon after she graduated from New York University’s School of Law in 2001. She began working at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, where she investigated a series of arrests and drug-related convictions of dozens of men, almost all of them Black, in Tulia, Texas.

Ms. Gupta proved that the drug charges had been fabricated by a narcotics agent named Tom Coleman, who was found guilty of perjury. In 2003, Rick Perry, then the governor of Texas, pardoned 35 people as a result of that case.

As a staff lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union, Ms. Gupta built bridges with police departments and human rights groups as part of her efforts to overhaul the criminal justice system.

Conservative stalwarts involved in criminal justice reform, like Koch Industries and Grover Norquist, joined progressive groups in supporting Ms. Gupta’s confirmation. So did more than a dozen law enforcement organizations, including the National Sheriffs’ Association, the Major Cities Chiefs Association and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

Nevertheless, Republicans largely declined to vote for her. Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, said on the Senate floor that the lack of support was a result “of her radical record far outside the mainstream and her career as a partisan activist.”

Even though Ms. Gupta has repeatedly said she does not support defunding the police, Mr. Cornyn insisted that she did, echoing an opposition ad created by a conservative legal group.

Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that as head of the Civil Rights Division in the final years of the Obama administration, Ms. Gupta had served the Justice Department “with class,” and that she was “a person of integrity and honesty and dedication to public service.”

Journalism nowadays.

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