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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Pledges to end net emissions by midcentury are now commonplace for big countries and companies, but several looming summits are putting a fresh focus on a much closer horizon.

Driving the news: U.S. officials intend to unveil a 2030 greenhouse gas emissions-cutting target under the Paris deal by April 22 — the date of a big summit Biden is hosting.

  • And more broadly, the next major UN climate conference in Scotland late this year is aimed at showcasing nations' updated medium-term pledges — and how they'll breathe life into them.
  • China, the world's largest emitter by far, is under lots of scrutiny because it has not yet unveiled policy specifics behind its vow to have its emissions peak before 2030.
  • Nikkei Asia reported Tuesday that Japan plans to unveil a more ambitious 2030 target before the G7 summit in June.

Where it stands: John Kerry, President Biden's climate envoy, used a multilateral meeting Tuesday to call for countries to show "concretely" how they'll meet those midcentury pledges with nearer-term steps.

  • "The scientists tell us it just doesn’t work to issue a mid-century goal without reducing sufficiently between now and 2030," Kerry said at the annual Ministerial on Climate Action hosted by China.
  • "Without that, and without a miracle, it’s as highly improbable as it is highly implausible that you could ever get to 2050 net zero in a way any country would ever choose," Kerry said.
  • Separately, new analysis from the investor network Climate Action 100+ finds that among scores of the world's largest carbon-emitting companies, there's a "critically important" need for "more robust" medium-term targets (i.e. the 2026-2035 range). Reuters has more.

The intrigue: A deeply reported Washington Post story gets to the dilemma facing U.S. officials — crafting a 2030 pledge over the next few weeks that's ambitious but not just a paper tiger.

  • That's especially tricky because while Biden is looking to leverage executive actions at agencies government-wide, his push for deep cuts will require lots of help from the narrowly divided Congress.
  • "Nobody will be satisfied with good targets without anything backing it up," Laurence Tubiana, a former French climate diplomat who now heads the European Climate Foundation, tells the paper.

Why it matters: Any hope of meeting the Paris Agreement's longshot target of limiting warming to 1.5°C above preindustrial means steep cuts need to be happening now.

  • The UN's science panel estimates that a path toward that goal would mean greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 need to be 45% below 2010 levels.
  • UN officials made that point when releasing a late February report finding that medium-term pledges thus far don't create anything close to a pathway to those cuts.

Go deeper

At least 3 dead after Amtrak train derails in Montana

Photo: Jacob Cordeiro/Twitter

An Amtrak train derailed near Joplin, Montana, resulting in at least three deaths and multiple injuries on Saturday, per a Liberty County Sheriff's Office statement to media outlets.

The big picture: Some 147 passengers and 13 crew were aboard the Empire Builder train, which runs from Seattle to Chicago, when seven cars derailed about 4p.m., Amtrak spokesperson Kimberly Woods said in an emailed statement. The National Transportation Safety Board said it's investigating the derailment.

Updated 10 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Federal judge blocks vaccine mandate for NYC teachers

Students are dismissed from the first day of school at PS 133 in Brooklyn on Sept. 13. Photo: Michael Nagle/Xinhua via Getty Images

A federal appeals court is set to hear a challenge Wednesday to a vaccine mandate planned for New York City school employees.

Why it matters The vaccine mandate was set to begin on Monday, prompting concerns over staffing shortages in schools across the nation's largest school system. But a judge on Friday temporarily blocked the measure, per AP.

New York prepares for staff shortages from health vaccine mandate

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul during a news conference Tuesday in New York City.. Photo: Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) announced Saturday she would declare a state of emergency if there were health worker shortages due to New York's upcoming COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Why it matters: Hochul moved to reassure concerns of staffing shortages in the health care sector in a statement that also outlined plans to call in medically trained National Guard members, workers from outside New York and retirees if necessary when the mandate takes effect Monday.