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A Biden climate adviser explains how the U.S. plans to meet its climate goals

NOEL KING, HOST:

All right. Gina McCarthy is with President Biden in Scotland. She serves as the White House's national climate adviser. I talked to her earlier this morning and asked her what we can expect to hear in the president's address.

GINA MCCARTHY: First of all, you're going to hear him speak about the United States being back in action. We have the strong 2030 commitment to cut our emissions in half. We have an opportunity to deliver clean electricity in 2035 and for net-zero in 2050. He's going to talk about the opportunity we have moving forward to tackle climate in a way that is going to create an opportunity for, you know, thousands of good-paying union jobs and to deliver on our promise to make good to environmental justice communities that have been left behind.

KING: How can the U.S. meet its goals if a key part of President Biden's climate policy, the Clean Energy Performance Program, was cut from the legislative budget package? Are there specific measures that are going to replace the Clean Energy Performance Program?

MCCARTHY: There are a number of paths to get to where we need to go in terms of our 2030 commitment. And we've identified a number of them. And if you look at the president's historic investment framework, the Build Back Better framework, that he submitted on the Hill, it's $555 billion. It's a historic commitment to actually invest in using a variety of pathways to get to where we need to go, you know, really taking action to invest in the kind of future we want everyone to have and the opportunities for technology improvements and for transmission lines and for innovation. So you will see, I think, with the Build Back Better framework that while the CEPP is not in there, we are certainly going to be delivering in excess of a gigaton of greenhouse gas reductions in 2030. So we are well on our way to do at least the 50% to 52%, if not more.

KING: What specific commitments will President Biden be asking for from other countries, like China and India, who also release a lot of emissions?

MCCARTHY: You know, science is telling us that this is the time when we have to do two things here in Glasgow. We have to, number one, make sure that we maintain our opportunity to keep the atmospheric temperature to 1.5 degrees centigrade. That's going to be absolutely critical. And so the second thing that we really have to do is make sure that we're moving fast. And that means we do have to work with China and India and the U.S. Together, we really are the bulk of the greenhouse gas emissions that we need to reduce. You will see that the president will be announcing our already pretty good success in getting countries to sign on to a global methane emission reduction requirement, which will buy us significant time. We're moving forward already with reductions in HFCs to the extent of about 85% lower by 2030. That's hydrofluorocarbons - yes - that are used in air conditioning and refrigeration. And they're extremely global-warming. So if we can get methane and HFCs lower, then we can buy us time to actually hang on to that 1.5-degree centigrade rise above industrial levels.

KING: You think that 1.5 degrees - you think it's attainable? - because the U.N. released an emissions report last week that said the world is on track for a global temperature rise of 2.7 degrees Celsius - more than 1.5 by a considerable amount. And yet you still sound optimistic enough.

MCCARTHY: I think what I'm really optimistic about is the fact that if we accelerate the deployment of already existing solutions and we start working with other countries on protecting our forests and our natural solutions and moving those forward, we have an opportunity to hang on to 1.5 degrees. But we're only going to do it if we act now and we act at capacity. And I think you're going to also see that the president's going to be coming, you know, to Glasgow with much higher levels of commitment to help support low- and middle-income countries. And we've found creative solutions even very recently with an announcement yesterday to start building carbon intensity as part of our trade framework, so that we can begin to have an impact on larger countries who want to ship into the United States and work hard to make sure that if they want to make those products in a way that is less carbon intensive, in a way that reduces greenhouse gas emissions, then come on in.

KING: White House National Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy, thank you for your time this morning. We appreciate it.

MCCARTHY: Thanks, Noel. It was great talking to you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.