Saying that the US and other major economies “must do this,” US President Joe Biden opened a global climate summit on Thursday aimed at convincing world leaders to dig deeper into emissions cuts.
The United States has pledged to cut the amount of climate-destroying emissions from coal and other fossil fuels it is pumping by half.
“Encountering this moment is more than just preserving our planet,” Biden said, speaking on a television-style set for a virtual summit of 40 world leaders. “It’s about providing a better future for all of us.”
He called this time “a moment of danger but a moment of opportunity”.
“The signs are unmistakable. The science is undeniable. The cost of inaction continues to rise,” he said.
Biden’s administration is shaping a vision of a clean-energy-rich United States, where factories produce state-of-the-art batteries for export, line workers rebuild an efficient national power grid, and crews shut down oil and gas platforms. abandoned gas and coal mines.
Biden’s commitment to reduce U.S. fossil fuel emissions by up to 52% by 2030 marks a U.S. return to global climate efforts after a four-year retreat under former President Donald Trump. Japan, a heavy user of coal, announced on Thursday its new target of reducing emissions by 46% before the opening of the summit, as the United States and its allies tried to build momentum.
The Biden administration’s commitment would require by far the most ambitious US climate effort ever undertaken, nearly doubling the reductions the Obama administration pledged to make in the historic 2015 Paris climate deal.
The new urgency comes as scientists say climate change caused by coal-fired power plants, car engines and other fossil fuels is already worsening droughts, floods, hurricanes, fires and other disasters and that humans are running out of time to avoid most catastrophic extremes of global warming.
But administration officials, in anticipating the new target, revealed aspirations and cartoons rather than specific plans, budget lines or legislative proposals to get there.
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris opened the Earth Day Summit from the East Room of the White House in front of world leaders, including those from China, Russia, India, Gulf oil states, European and Asian allies, and island and coastal nations who they are already struggling with the effects of climate change. Pope Francis should also have participated.
Biden is scheduled to attend a second session of the summit live stream later in the morning on financing the poorest countries’ efforts to rebuild and protect their economies from global warming.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the summit took place as a climate telethon-style live stream, limiting opportunities for spontaneous interaction and negotiation. The event opened with a glitch – an echo in Harris and Biden’s remarks that was soon resolved.
With US commitment and other emission reduction announcements from Japan, Canada, the European Union and the UK, countries that account for more than half of the world economy will now have committed to reducing fossil fuel fumes enough to maintain the Earth’s climate. heating, disastrously, more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, the Biden administration said.
As of 2019, the last year before the pandemic, the United States had reduced its greenhouse gases 13% from 2005 levels, which is about halfway to the Obama administration’s 26-28% targets. said climate scientist Niklas Hohne of Climate Action Tracker. This is largely due to market forces that have made solar, wind and natural gas much cheaper.
Biden, a Democrat, has partly campaigned to tackle climate change. He sketched out some elements of his $ 2 trillion approach to transforming U.S. transportation systems and power grids in his campaign climate plan and infrastructure proposals for Congress.
His administration insists that the transformation will mean millions of well-paid jobs. Republicans say the effort will eliminate oil, gas and coal workers from work. They call his infrastructure proposal too expensive.
“The summit doesn’t necessarily mean everyone else is bringing something new to the table – it’s really about the United States bringing their goal to the world,” said Joanna Lewis, an energy and environmental expert in China at Georgetown University in Washington. , DC
It’s an urgent but hardly perfect time for the United States to try and spur action.
China, Russia participate
The world’s two leading climate criminals, China and the United States, are fighting over non-climate issues. Chinese President Xi Jinping, who waited until Wednesday to confirm he would take part, spoke first among other global figures. He made no immediate reference to other disputes between the US and China, saying, “Protecting the environment means protecting productivity, and stimulating the environment means increasing productivity. It’s that simple.”
India, the third largest emitter of fossil fuel fumes in the world, is lobbying the United States and other wealthier nations to raise the billions of dollars they have pledged to help poorer nations build alternatives to coal-fired power plants and to power grids that suck energy. “‘In India we are doing our part,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi told attendees, adding: “We have taken many courageous steps.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose nation according to some estimates is the fourth worst climate polluter in the world, has also accepted the invitation from the United States, but is furious at Biden calling him a “killer”, as part of the high tensions over the country. Putin’s aggression abroad and on US sanctions.