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Scientists to Biden: Slash Emissions 50% Below 2005 Levels by 2030

"This goal is both technically feasible and necessary—now we need action."

A participant holding a sign at a climate march on September 20, 2020.

A participant holding a sign at a climate march on September 20, 2020. (Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Over 1,000 scientists urged President Joe Biden on Tuesday to pursue a "robust target" of slashing the nation's "emissions by at least 50% below 2005 levels by 2030 and transitioning to a net-zero emissions economy no later than 2050."

"This goal is both technically feasible and necessary—now we need action," the experts write in an open letter to the White Hoiuse.

The letter was released by research and advocacy group the Union of Concerned Scientists, which plans on delivering the letter next month ahead of the president's April 22 climate summit with other world leaders.

Ahead of that meeting, the administration "is expected to announce what the White House called 'an ambitious 2030 target,'" Reuters reported, referring to what is known as a Nationally Determined Contribution or NDC to the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Noted signatories to the open letter so far include Dr. Michael Mann, distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Pennsylvania State University and lead author of the IPCC Third Assessment Report, and Dr. Lauren Edwards, executive director of 500 Women Scientists and director of the group's Fellowship for the Future.

The signatories, who also include engineers and public health experts, say that emissions reductions must be prioritized in the transportation and power sectors.

Five specific actions, touching on methane emissions, new vehicle fleets, and building soil health, are detailed. The letter calls for Biden to:

  • Aim for a transition to a 100% carbon-free power sector by 2035, through supportive policies and increased investments in energy efficiency, renewable energy, a modernized electricity system, transmission, energy storage, and clean energy research and development.
  • Set strong long-term standards that reduce carbon pollution from passenger cars and trucks by at least 60% and ensure at least 50% of new vehicles sales are electric by 2030. Also increase investment in sustainable, equitable transportation infrastructure.
  • Enact strong pollution standards that put us on track to have all new trucks and buses be zero-emission by 2040, which will also reduce dangerous air pollution.
  • Sharply limit methane emissions from oil and gas production, processing and distribution.
  • Enable farmers and eaters to be part of the solution by investing in equitable research and assistance programs that advance sustainable farming systems, build soil health, sequester carbon, and reduce food and farm emissions.

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Communities of the front lines of the climate crisis must be centered in plans for effecting such changes, including by holding fossil fuel polluters accountable. Workers in the fossil fuel industry, the group adds, must also be aided through a "well-funded long-term transition package."

An analysis out Tuesday from the Natural Resources Defense Council adds fresh support for the letter's recommendations. According to the findings, Biden must:

commit to an ambitious Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) of reducing its GHG emissions by at least 50% below 2005 levels by 2030—a target which is necessary, achievable, and affordable. In fact, our own modeling shows that a 53% GHG reduction by 2030 is technologically feasible and would cost just 0.4% of projected U.S. GDP while delivering substantial economic, public health, and climate benefits for Americans. Moreover, this ambitious but credible NDC target will position the United States on a path to net-zero emissions by 2050, help pull the country out of the pandemic-induced recession by putting millions of Americans to work every year, avoid tens of thousands of premature deaths, and inspire more ambitious global climate action ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties in November.

Analysis co-author Rachel Fakhry, policy analyst in NRDC's Climate & Clean Energy program, said in a statement: "It's clear that the more progress we make this decade, the better off we will be. A strong but achievable new climate target will help us stay on track to a cleaner and safer future."

The open letter was released a day after the White House announced measures to boost the nation's offshore wind capacity and named the 26 members members of the Environmental Justice Advisory Council. Members of the body, created under a January executive order, include voting rights and climate justice activist Jerome Foster II as well as Texas Southern University professor and author Dr. Bob Bullard, who's been dubbed the father of environmental justice.

On Wednesday, the administration is expected to reveal the first part of its infrastructure and jobs package, which is set to include climate measures to help the nation's transition away from fossil fuels.

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