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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

Biden admin grants Colonial waiver to ease fuel shortages

Fuel tanks at Colonial Pipeline Baltimore Delivery in Baltimore, Maryland on Monday. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

The Biden administration approved a temporary waiver of shipping requirements late Wednesday to help Colonial Pipeline transport fuel, as service resumes across the U.S. following a ransomware attack that that took it offline last week.

Why it matters: The century-old Jones Act requires ships to be built in the U.S. and crewed by American workers, but the waiver means foreign companies can transport gasoline and diesel to areas where there are fuel shortages.

Updated 51 mins ago - World

Over 70 dead in worst bombardments between Israel and Hamas for years

Smoke and flames rise after Israeli fighter jets conducted airstrikes in Gaza on May 13, 2021. Israeli forces said on May 12 they had killed a senior Hamas commander and bombed several buildings. Gaza's health ministry has said children are among the dead. Photo: Ashraf Amra/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

At least 67 Palestinians and seven Israelis have been killed in fighting between Israel's military and Hamas since Monday, per Reuters.

The big picture: The worst aerial exchanges of fire between Israel and Hamas since 2014 continued into early Thursday. It come days after escalating violence in Jerusalem that injured hundreds of Palestinians and several Israeli police officers during protests over the planned evictions of Palestinian families from their homes.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Don McGahn agrees to closed-door interview with House panel on Russia report

Former White House counsel Don McGahn during a discussion at the NYU Global Academic Center in Washington, D.C., in 2019. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Former White House counsel Don McGahn agreed Wednesday to speak with the House Judiciary Committee about former President Trump's alleged attempts to obstruct the Russia investigation — with certain conditions, per a court filing.

Why it matters: The agreement ends a two-year standoff after McGahn, a key player in former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, repeatedly refused to agree to a subpoena for testimony — resulting in the matter being taken to court.