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Live Updates: Biden to Announce Major Pledge to Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions

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Credit…Brian Snyder/Reuters

President Biden will announce Thursday 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 target, confirmed by three people briefed on the plan, is timed to a closely watched global summit meeting that Mr. Biden is hosting Thursday and Friday, which is aimed at sending a message that the United States is rejoining international efforts to fight global warming after four years of climate denial from the Trump administration.

A White House spokesman declined to comment on the U.S. target, which was first reported by The Washington Post.

The leaders of China, India and nearly 40 other countries are expected to join Mr. Biden virtually, and the United States hopes that the announcement of its new emissions goal will galvanize other nations to step up their own targets by the time nations gather again under United Nations auspices in November in Glasgow.

The new American goal nearly doubles the pledge that the Obama administration made to cut emissions 26 percent to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, although the country would have five more years to achieve it, according to the people familiar with the target who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it. The 2030 target will be a range that will aim to cut emissions around 50 percent from 2005 levels. It will not include detailed modeling showing how the United States proposes to meet its pledge, one administration official said.

The goal is largely in line with what environmental groups and big businesses, including McDonalds, Target and Google, have wanted. They and others argued that cutting emissions at least 50 percent from 2005 levels by the end of the decade is the only way to put the United States on a path to eliminate fossil fuel pollution by the middle of the century.

On Tuesday, Gina McCarthy, Mr. Biden’s top climate change adviser, hinted that the United States would set that ambitious goal.

“I would argue that there’s opportunities for us to be able to be very aggressive, and we’re going to take that opportunity,” she said in an interview with N.P.R.

Meeting it, however, will be a steep challenge.

Nathan Hultman, director of the Center for Global Sustainability at the University of Maryland, and other energy experts described the 50 percent goal as attainable, but only with what Mr. Hultman described as “pretty significant action across all sectors of the American economy.”

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia during his annual address to Parliament in Moscow on Wednesday.
Credit…Maxim Shipenkov/EPA, via Shutterstock

As he masses troops near Ukraine, puts down domestic dissent and engages in a fast-intensifying conflict with President Biden, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia is on the verge of decisions that could define a new, even harder-line phase of his presidency.

But while Mr. Putin’s annual address to Parliament on Wednesday was replete with threats against the West, it stopped short of announcing new military or foreign policy moves.

Russia’s response will be “asymmetric, fast and tough” if it is forced to defend its interests, Mr. Putin said, pointing to what he asserted were Western efforts at regime change in neighboring Belarus as another threat to Russia’s security.

“The organizers of any provocations threatening the fundamental interests of our security will regret their deeds more than they have regretted anything in a long time,” Mr. Putin told a hall of governors and members of Parliament. “I hope no one gets the idea to cross the so-called red line with Russia — and we will be the ones to decide where it runs in every concrete case.”

Mr. Putin’s speech had been widely anticipated, with about 100,000 Russian troops gathered on Ukraine’s border and Ukraine’s president warning openly of the possibility of war. Some analysts had speculated that Mr. Putin might use his annual state of the nation address to announce a pretext for sending troops into Ukraine.

But that scenario did not come to pass. Mr. Putin also made no reference to the jailed opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny, whose supporters planned to hold protests across the country on Wednesday. Instead, Mr. Putin spent most of his speech on domestic issues, acknowledging Russians’ discontent with the hardships of the pandemic.

The United States last week announced a raft of new sanctions against Russia, blaming it for a major hacking operation. Mr. Biden also called for a summit meeting with Mr. Putin, which to many Russians looked like a crude American attempt to negotiate from a position of strength.

“This is seen as an unacceptable situation — you won’t chase us into the stall with sanctions,” said Dmitri Trenin, the director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, a think tank.

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‘Today’s Verdict Is a Step Forward,’ Biden Says

President Biden on Tuesday praised the guilty verdict in the trial of the former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, calling the killing “a murder in full light of day.”

A jury in Minnesota found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all counts in the murder of George Floyd last May. It was a murder in full light of day, and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see. There is systemic racism — it’s a stain on our nation’s soul — the knee on the neck of justice for Black Americans; profound fear and trauma; the pain, the exhaustion that Black and brown Americans experience every single day. I also spoke with George Floyd’s family again — remarkable family of extraordinary courage. Nothing can ever bring their brother, their father back. But this can be a giant step forward in the march toward justice in America. “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.” Those were George Floyd’s last words. We can’t let those words die with him. We have to keep hearing those words. We must not turn away. We can’t turn away. We have a chance to begin to change the trajectory in this country.

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President Biden on Tuesday praised the guilty verdict in the trial of the former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, calling the killing “a murder in full light of day.”CreditCredit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Biden praised a guilty verdict in the murder trial of the former police officer Derek Chauvin, but called it a “too rare” step to deliver “basic accountability” for Black Americans who have been killed during interactions with the police.

“It was a murder in full light of day, and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see,” Mr. Biden said of the death of George Floyd, who died after Mr. Chauvin knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes, and whose death ignited nationwide protests. “For so many, it feels like it took all of that for the judicial system to deliver just basic accountability.”

Mr. Biden delivered his remarks to the nation hours after taking the unusual step of weighing in on the trial’s outcome before the jury had come back with a decision, and telling reporters that he had been “praying” for the “right verdict.”

“This can be a giant step forward in the march toward justice in America,” Mr. Biden said during his address.

Mr. Biden assumed the presidency during a national reckoning over race and has staked his political legacy around a promise to make racial equality, which includes an overhaul on policing, a central focus of his presidency. He has been outspoken about Mr. Floyd’s death, calling it a “wake up call” for the nation.

In the wake of a series of recent police-involved shootings and other violent episodes that have taken place over the course of the trial, he has repeatedly called for Congress to pass an ambitious bill on policing reform, named for Mr. Floyd and co-authored by the vice president.

On Tuesday afternoon, the White House canceled an earlier speech Mr. Biden had planned to deliver on his infrastructure plan so that he could watch the verdict come in alongside Kamala Harris, the vice president, and a group of other aides in his private dining room just off the Oval Office.

The jury’s deliberations had been closely tracked throughout the day: In the minutes before the verdict was delivered, White House aides were sprinting through the West Wing, phones in hand, and setting up a podium for Mr. Biden to deliver his remarks alongside Ms. Harris in Cross Hall. Just after the verdict was delivered the president was on the phone with members of Mr. Floyd’s family.

“We’re all so relieved,” Mr. Biden said to a group of people who included Ben Crump, the Floyd family’s attorney. “I’m anxious to see you guys, I really am. We’re gonna do a lot and we’re gonna stand until we get it done.”

Ms. Harris, who spoke before Mr. Biden gave remarks, called for the passage of the bill that would overhaul how police officers engage people in minority communities.

“Here’s the truth about racial injustice,” Ms Harris said. “It is not just a Black America problem or a people of color problem. It is a problem for every American. It is keeping us from fulfilling the promise of liberty and justice for all, and it is holding our nation back from realizing our full potential.”

Mr. Biden can trace his political success, in part, to how he responded to the nationwide protests that rose up in the wake of Mr. Floyd’s death.

Last June, as his predecessor, Donald J. Trump, stoked tensions by tweet, calling the protests a result of the “radical left” and threatening to send in the National Guard, Mr. Biden traveled to Houston with his wife, Jill, to meet with Mr. Floyd’s relatives.

The hour he spent with the Floyd family effectively created a split-screen with Mr. Trump that boosted his war chest and added momentum to his campaign.

“I won’t fan the flames of hate,” Mr. Biden said at the time. “I will seek to heal the racial wounds that have long plagued this country — not use them for political gain.”

Gina McCarthy, the former E.P.A. chief under Obama, returned to the White House as a climate coordinator and senior adviser to President Biden. 
Credit…Sarah Blesener for The New York Times

Gina McCarthy worked six or seven days a week, 12 to 14 hours a day, to produce America’s first real effort to combat climate change, a suite of Obama-era regulations that would cut pollution from the nation’s tailpipes and smokestacks and wean the world’s largest economy from fossil fuels.

Then the administration of Donald J. Trump shredded the work of President Barack Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency chief before any of it could take effect.

Now Ms. McCarthy is back as President Biden’s senior climate change adviser, and this time, she is determined to make it stick.

She is the most powerful climate change official in the country other than Mr. Biden himself, and her charge is not simply to reconstruct her Obama-era policies but to lead an entire government to tackle global warming, from the nation’s military to its diplomatic corps to its Treasury and Transportation Department. She will also lead negotiations with Congress for permanent new climate change laws that could withstand the next change of administration.

“I’ve got a small stronghold office, but I am an orchestra leader for a very large band,” Ms. McCarthy, 66, said in a speech in February.

Mr. Biden’s two-day global climate summit meeting, which begins Thursday, is his chance to proclaim America’s return to the international effort to stave off the most devastating impacts of a warming planet, but it is Ms. McCarthy’s re-emergence as well. Mr. Biden is expected to pledge that the United States will cut its planet-warming emissions by at least 50 percent below 2005 levels in the next decade.

The world has seen such promises before, with the Kyoto accords in the 1990s, then the Paris Agreement in the Obama era, only to see them discarded by subsequent Republican administrations. It will fall to Ms. McCarthy to prove the skeptics wrong.

The administration plans concurrent efforts to enact regulations to curb auto and power plant emissions, restrict fossil fuel development and conserve public lands while pressing Congress to pass the climate provisions in Mr. Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure bill, such as renewable power and electric vehicle programs.

Ms. McCarthy hopes to push the infrastructure bill further, possibly by mandating that power companies produce a certain percentage of their electricity from renewable sources, such as wind and solar. That will be a tough sell to many Republicans — but if it passes Congress, it could stand as the Biden administration’s permanent climate legacy, even if other rules are swept away by future presidents.

President Moon Jae-in of South Korea during an interview at the Blue House in Seoul. He wants President Biden to negotiate denuclearization with North Korea.
Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

President Moon Jae-in of South Korea has a message for the United States: President Biden needs to engage now with North Korea.

In an interview with The New York Times, Mr. Moon pushed the American leader to kick start negotiations with the government of Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, after two years in which diplomatic progress stalled, even reversed. Denuclearization, the South Korean president said, was a “matter of survival” for his country.

He also urged the United States to cooperate with China on North Korea and other issues of global concern, including climate change. The deteriorating relations between the superpowers, he said, could undermine any negotiations over denuclearization.

It was part plea, part sales pitch from Mr. Moon, who sat down with The Times as the United States tries to rebuild its relationships in the region with an eye to countering China’s influence, and North Korea builds up its nuclear arsenal. Mr. Moon, who is set to meet with Mr. Biden next month in Washington, appeared ready to step once again into the role of mediator between the two sides.

In the interview, Mr. Moon ​was proud of his deft diplomatic maneuvering in 2018, when he steered the two unpredictable leaders of North Korea and the United States to meet in person. He was also pragmatic, tacitly acknowledging that ​his work to achieve denuclearization and ​peace on the Korean Peninsula has since unraveled.

President Donald J. Trump left office without removing a single North Korean nuclear warhead. Mr. Kim has resumed weapons tests. ​

“He beat around the bush and failed to pull it through,” Mr. Moon said of Mr. Trump’s efforts on North Korea.

Mr. Biden ​has started reversing many of his predecessor’s foreign policy decisions​. But Mr. Moon ​warned that it would be a mistake to kill the 2018 Singapore agreement between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim ​that set out broad goals for denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. ​

“I believe that if we build on what President Trump has left, we will see this effort come to fruition under Biden’s leadership,” he said.

A group of displaced Syrian children played amidst the ancient ruins of Deir Amman where they now live as refugees with their families.
Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

What had been an easy promise on the campaign trail — to reverse what Democrats called President Donald J. Trump’s “racist” limits on accepting refugees — has become a test of what is truly important to the new occupant of the White House, according to an account of his decision making from more than a dozen Biden administration officials, refugee resettlement officials and others.

Mr. Biden was eager for the praise that would come from vastly increasing Mr. Trump’s record-low limit, people familiar with his thinking said, and he decided to increase the cap even earlier than the usual start of the fiscal year, Oct. 1.

But only weeks into Mr. Biden’s presidency, immigration and the border had already become major distractions from his efforts to defeat the coronavirus pandemic and to persuade Congress to invest trillions of dollars into the economy — issues championed by aides like Ron Klain, the White House chief of staff, as more central to his presidency.

Now, a decision to raise the refugee limit to 62,500 — as Mr. Biden had promised only weeks earlier to members of Congress — would invite from Republicans new attacks of hypocrisy and open borders even as the president was calling for bipartisanship.

It was terrible timing, he told officials, especially with federal agencies already struggling to manage the highest number of migrant children and teenagers at the border in more than a decade.


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