On November 1, 2021, at the outset of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, the White House unveiled two climate change strategies, one at home and one abroad.
The first, titled “The Long-Term Strategy of the United States: Pathways to Net-Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2050,” has its objective buried in the document’s lengthy title. The second, the “President’s Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience (PREPARE),” is intended
to assist vulnerable developing countries and communities around the world as they strive to manage the effects of climate change. Here’s a closer look at the two announced tactics.
It is a tall ambition for any country to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in fewer than three decades. Given the current state of our atmosphere, let alone the political situation in the United States, many would argue that net-zero is an unattainable goal. Others argue that with the appropriate plan and devotion, it is possible.
What Does Net-Zero Emissions Mean?
The term “net-zero” emissions refer to a balance between GHGs produced and GHGs removed from the atmosphere. This is not the same as “zero emissions,” which would mean no greenhouse gas emissions at all. In any realistic sense, achieving zero emissions would be prohibitively expensive or disruptive to life on Earth.
Some greenhouse gases are emitted with net-zero emissions, but they are countered by extracting an equal quantity of GHGs from the atmosphere and storing them in soil, plants, or other materials. Even net-zero emissions, according to experts, will not enough. To rectify previous damage, governments will eventually need to go beyond net-zero.
A Timetable for Reaching Net-Zero by 2050
To achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, a carefully organised step-by-step plan with manageable milestones along the way will be required. According to Cynthia Elliott of the World Resources Institute’s Global Climate Program, “in broad strokes, the [net-zero] strategy sets out the proper expectation of encompassing all sectors and all GHGs, a clear goal year, and tangible interim milestones, but there’s a lot to watch.”
2025 NDC: 26-28 percent lower GHG emissions as in 2005
The Obama administration established a 2025 target of 26-28 percent lower emissions than in 2005 in 2015. At the time, then-President Obama and China’s President Xi, the leaders of the world’s two largest economies and polluters announced an agreement to reduce or decrease emissions. China’s much more modest aim was to peak emissions around 2030 and begin using up to 20% non-fossil energy by 2030.
- Accelerating current emissions-cutting trends;
- Rapidly expanding the use of innovative technology such as electric automobiles and heat pumps; and
- Creating infrastructure for critical systems such as our national power grid.
2050 NDC: GHG emissions are expected to be 100 percent lower than in 2005. (Net Zero)
According to the Biden administration, the ultimate NDC target of 100 percent lower emissions than in 2005, or net-zero emissions, will be met by:
- Electricity decarbonization (by 2035)
- End-of-life electrification and the usage of alternative clean fuels
- Reducing energy waste
- Methane and other non-CO2 emissions must be reduced.
- Scaling-up CO2 absorption
The President’s Emergency Adaptation and Resilience Plan (PREPARE)
At the same time as “Pathways to Net-Zero Emissions by 2050,” a companion policy is known as the “President’s Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience (PREPARE)” was announced. The goal of this plan is to help developing countries and populations in vulnerable areas around the world adapt to and manage the effects of climate change. 2
The White House stated while introducing the framework, “By FY2024, the President will engage with Congress to give $3 billion in yearly adaptation funding for PREPARE. It is the largest commitment ever made by the United States to lessen climate impacts on those most vulnerable to climate change across the world.”
PREPARE will be assisted by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in meeting its goals by 2030 through:
- By 2030, a total of $1 billion in public and private funds will be raised for water and sanitation services.
- The Green Recovery Investment Platform is being launched to boost climate investments.
- Investing $100 million over five years for long-term forest conservation
- Making a $21.8 million contribution to catastrophe risk finance in Africa
- Providing assistance to disadvantaged countries around the world with their adaptation priorities
- Central America must improve its climate adaptation and resilience.
- Preparing local climate forecasters and leaders to foresee natural disasters
- Assisting partner countries in meeting their climate-resilience targets
- Collaboration with partner countries to adapt programmes to changing rainfall patterns.
Experts Comment on the Strategies
While climate experts generally support the goals described in the new White House policy, they warn that there will be hurdles to overcome.
“The new long-term approach demonstrates that net zero is attainable in the United States, but it will necessitate bold, immediate action.” “Elliott explains. “A positive first step would be for Congress to pass ambitious legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet our pledge to cut emissions in half by 2030, as well as to increase research and development funding in the power, transportation, buildings, industry, and land sectors, as well as technology-based carbon removal.”
“Following an MSCI analysis of public decarbonizaton targets, we’ve estimated that only five U.S. utilities companies (12 percent of power generators) plan to reach a near zero carbon intensity for their electricity generation by 2035,” says Julia Giguere-Morello, executive director and head of Americas Core ESG and Climate Research at MSCI.
Giguere-Morello said of the efforts the oil and gas business must take to reduce methane emissions, “Methane is a problem for the entire oil and gas industry, and it’s fully doable.” The requisite equipment and technology exist to address the majority of the industry’s methane and flaring problems, and necessary steps are often low-cost, but corporations have chosen to spend elsewhere. Overall, voluntary effort has done nothing to address the issue.”
Getting to Net Zero by 2050
The strategy’ release on November 1 is merely the first stage. Congress is primarily responsible for funding and implementation. The solutions are largely guidelines because the passage of federal climate-related legislation is still uncertain.
While the strategies make it evident that the way forward will be difficult and would necessitate virtually unprecedented international cooperation, the plans’ contents reveal that the aims are not just possible but also desirable.
According to “Pathways to Net-Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2050,” achieving net-zero avoids 85,000 to 300,000 premature deaths; $1 trillion to $3 trillion in damages through 2050 in the United States alone; propels “sustained growth” and leadership by the United States in battery, electric vehicle, and heat pump technologies; and even provides national security benefits by driving down the costs of carbon-free technologies and helping to reduce international tensions.
Where do the majority of greenhouse gases come from?
The majority of greenhouse gas emissions are caused by the use of fossil fuels for power, heat, and transportation. The Biden Administration’s “Long Term Strategy” calls for the United States to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
What is the PREPARE strategy of the Biden administration?
The PREPARE strategy is a plan to help poor countries and populations in vulnerable areas around the world adapt to and manage the effects of climate change.