America is making climate promises again. Should anyone care?

Policy, not aspirations, will determine Biden’s legacy on climate change.

In 2015, when President Barack Obama signed the US on to the Paris climate agreement, he did what all participating nations must do and made an emissions reductions pledge: The US would reduce its emissions 26 to 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025.

President Donald Trump notoriously yanked the US out of the Paris agreement. Now President Joe Biden is getting the US back in, and once again, an emissions reductions pledge is required. Last Thursday, Biden offered it: The US will reduce emissions 50 to 52 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks outside the Delaware Museum of Natural History in Wilmington, Delaware, on September 14, 2020. (Photo: Getty Images)

That is not, contrary to some of the more enthusiastic headlines, a doubling of Obama’s target or a halving of current emissions. It is a relatively modest boost in ambition and a halving of 2005’s much higher emissions. (Vox’s Umair Irfan has a great piece on this.)

Nonetheless, it is an ambitious target that would require sweeping changes across US society, on which Biden’s infrastructure plan would be a mere down payment.

I suppose I should be excited about it, but reader, I must confess: I am not.

Read the rest of my monthly column over at Vox.