Energy & Environment

White House unveils strategy for 2050 net-zero goal

The U.S. early Monday unveiled its strategy for achieving “net-zero” greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 — under which the country would try to eliminate or offset all of its climate pollution. 

Biden repeatedly expressed a desire to put the country on track for net-zero by 2050 on the campaign trail and since taking office. The new report lays out a more specific policy pathway for getting there. 

“Our investments and policies will supercharge our economy, they’ll strengthen the fabric of our society, and improve quality of life,” national climate adviser Gina McCarthy told reporters on Sunday. 

The strategy comes at the start of the global COP26 climate conference, where world leaders are gathering in an attempt to make progress on global climate action.

Biden’s plan entails switching to clean energy sources for electricity generation; making many parts of the economy run on electricity, including cars, buildings and industrial processes; increasing energy efficiency and scaling up the use of technology that pulls carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. 

Shifting toward clean electricity goes hand-in-hand with the policy of shifting parts of the economy towards electric power, as cleaner electricity would mean deeper emissions cuts as cars, buildings and industrial processes shift towards electric power. 

The report projects that by 2050, electricity could provide between 15 percent and 42 percent of primary energy. 

The administration has already expressed a desire to carry out many of these goals — including switching to clean energy sources — but a bitterly divided Congress has presented an obstacle to that goal. 

Opposition from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) blocked a key program from being included in a congressional spending bill, which would have provided incentives and penalties to push power providers toward clean electricity sources 

But, the new report still doubles down on Biden’s pledge to eliminate power-sector emissions by 2035.

It points to additional policies like incentives and standards for reducing power plant pollution, utilizing nuclear power and technology to capture emissions when fossil fuels are burned at power plants and investments in technologies for batteries that store renewable power.

To reach its additional goals, the report promotes policies like adopting “climate-smart” agricultural practices and addressing emissions of a powerful greenhouse gas called methane through “stringent” standards for oil and gas production and investments in plugging leaks from coal, oil and gas extraction. 

A fact sheet released by the White House on Monday separately highlighted additional action the Biden administration is taking on climate change, including a program called Prepare to help vulnerable countries adapt to climate. 

Under this program, the administration would seek $3 billion in annual funding starting in fiscal 2024.

Broadly, it aims to increase global understanding of climate risks and vulnerabilities, help at-risk countries and communities plan for climate change in its decision making and mobilize private capital to fund adaptation measures.

Tags clean energy Climate change Climate change policy emissions reductions Gina McCarthy Joe Biden Joe Manchin net-zero carbon emissions UN Climate Summit

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