Biden Says US Must Get to ‘Net-Zero’ Carbon Emissions by 2025; Then Adjusts That to 2050

Patrick Goodenough | October 23, 2020 | 12:49am EDT
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Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks during Thursday’s debate in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Morry Gash/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks during Thursday’s debate in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Morry Gash/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

( – Joe Biden said during Thursday night’s final presidential debate that American industries must transition to renewable energy sources “to get to ultimately a complete zero emissions by 2025” – that’s a quarter of a century earlier than the target date set in the Paris climate accords.

The startling statement appeared to have been a slip-up, however, since around four minutes later, Biden offered different dates – 2035 for “net-zero” emissions in the energy sector, and 2050 as the goal to achieve net-zero emissions overall.  (“Net-zero emissions” means the quantity of “greenhouse gases” blamed for climate change that is being produced is balanced out by the quantity that is being taken out of the atmosphere.)


During a segment on climate change, President Trump and Biden clashed over fracking (hydraulic fracturing) and the future of the oil industry.

Biden denied Trump’s charge that he had shifted from opposition to fracking during the Democratic primaries to now saying he does not want to ban the practice – a reversal which Trump implied was linked to trying to win votes in Pennsylvania, where tens of thousands of jobs are tied up in the industry. Biden countered that his earlier statements opposing fracking referred specifically to fracking on federal land.

“I do rule out banning fracking,” Biden said, “because the answer we need – we need other industries to transition to get to ultimately a complete zero emissions by 2025.”

A few minutes later, Trump challenged Biden on whether he would shut down the oil industry.

“I would transition from the oil industry, yes,” Biden responded, adding that “the oil industry pollutes, significantly” and “has to be replaced by renewable energy, over time.”

“That’s maybe the biggest statement in terms of business, that’s the biggest statement,” said Trump. “Because basically what he’s saying is he’s going to destroy the oil industry. Will you remember that, Texas? Will you remember that, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Ohio?

“The point is, look, we have to move toward a net-zero emissions,” Biden said. “The first place to do that by the year 2035 is in energy production, by 2050 totally.”

The Paris climate accord aims to prevent average global temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, by achieving net-zero emissions by the second half of the century

In the U.S. pledge offered by President Obama, in line with the Paris accord goals, 2025 was the target year to reduce U.S. emissions by 26-28 percent (below 2005 levels).

The Green New Deal resolution introduced early last year by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)  and Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), citing U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change findings, calls for “global reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from human sources of 40 to 60 percent from 2010 levels by 2030; and net-zero global emissions by 2050.”

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