United States President Joe Biden resumed global leadership on the climate crisis on Thursday, launching the two-day virtual Earth Day summit with a pledge to halve U.S. emissions by the end of the decade.
“Time is running out, but I think we can do it,” Biden said in his opening remarks. “We are going to do it.”
The new U.S. pledge, announced by the White House on Thursday – marking Earth Day on April 22 – promises to reduce the country’s carbon emissions by at least 50% by 2030 based on 2005 levels.
The aggressive goal set the tone for a summit that brings together leaders from around 40 countries as the coronavirus pandemic rages across multiple continents with economic uncertainty.
According to US officials, the purpose of the Earth Day meeting is to underscore the urgency of climate action and to highlight the economic benefits to be derived from investing in renewable energy as well as to minimize the catastrophic effects of climate change. global warming.
Besides the United States, officials from a handful of other major emitters are expected to announce new commitments ahead of COP26, the United Nations climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, scheduled for November.
After opening remarks by Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres began his address at the rally by thanking the United States for helping the world focus on the “existential threat. Of climate change.
“Mother Nature is not waiting,” Guterres said, according to a prepared statement released ahead of her remarks live. “The past decade has been the hottest on record. Dangerous greenhouse gases are at levels not seen in three million years. “
The global average temperature has already risen by 1.2 degrees Celsius, leaving little room to keep the increase well below the 2-degree target set by the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
“We need a green planet,” Guterres told the assembled leaders. “But the world is on red alert. We are on the brink.
Collecting a carbon tax and ending fossil fuel subsidies are crucial, said Guterres, as heads of state from Brazil, Russia, China and India deliver speeches .
“ A fairer future ”
With the United States – which accounts for around 15% of global emissions – back to the negotiating table, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Special Climate Envoy John Kerry represented Washington at the summit’s inaugural session. “Raising our Climate Ambition”.
“A lot of us, maybe all of us, have a strong sense of urgency,” Blinken said. “The consequences of failure are clear.”
Dozens of leaders around the world have started sharing their assessments of climate-related challenges, explaining their ongoing efforts and announcing new measures to respond to Guterres’ call to get on track to achieve net zero emissions by the middle of the century.
The Biden administration’s new commitment for the current decade comes after weeks of pressure from subnational officials, scientists and the private sector.
A statement by the America Is All In coalition said the United States “has taken an important step forward in setting a national climate target.”
“To meet – and ultimately to overcome – this [nationally determined contribution] The goal will create jobs, strengthen our economy, reduce climate-related threats and support a healthier, more prosperous and fairer future for our country, ”he said.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson provided more details on the UK’s new target of cutting emissions by 78% from 1990 levels by 2035.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen shared new information on the EU climate law adopted on Wednesday.
Canada, Japan and South Korea have provided new UN climate targets, and Seoul has also announced a ban on coal funding abroad.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a new net zero target and energy innovation programs.
Thunberg keeps up the pressure
While the rally may push back the US leadership on climate action, activists are still keeping the pressure on.
In a letter to Vogue magazine on the eve of the summit, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg berated leaders for making “hypothetical” goals without catalyzing action.
“We welcome all efforts to safeguard future and present living conditions,” Thunberg wrote. “These goals could be a good start without the small fact that they are full of gaps.”
Thunberg made that message stand out in a video released Thursday lambasting governments for their failures.
⚠️This is an emergency alert for the general public⚠️#MindTheGap#LeadersClimateSummit#Earth Day#NoMoreEmptySummits pic.twitter.com/e1z1A783I2
– Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) April 22, 2021
Thunberg is also participating in a US House hearing for the environment subcommittee on the prevalence of oil and gas subsidies.
Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director of Greenpeace International, said: “True climate leadership requires laws and regulations to phase out fossil fuels, end deforestation and restore nature.”
“Significant political will and action is needed,” she added. “The richest countries in the world need to do more than halve their emissions by 2030, after benefiting from the extractive and polluting industries that led to the climate crisis.”
Adaptation, resilience and nature-based solutions are high on the agenda in digital discussions that are raising the voices of ministerial leaders from countries ranging from Fiji and Thailand to Rwanda and Peru.
Thursday’s summit meetings include a session on Scaling Up Climate Investments with U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and European Council President Charles Michel.
Additional speakers at this session are Pope Francis, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Kristalina Georgieva, and World Bank President David Malpass, as well as the Presidents of COP25 and COP26.
On the commercial front, the CEOs of Allianz, Bank of America and Citigroup are among the titans of finance whose statements on the financing of the low-carbon transition are eagerly awaited.
And their words follow important announcements about the private sector big hitters lining up for climate goals.
On Wednesday, a global consortium was launched to bring together business initiatives under the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) – led by Mark Carney, the UK’s financial adviser for COP26.
A founding member of GFANZ alongside the $ 5.7 trillion Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance is a new group of 43 major banks in the Net-Zero Banking Alliance.
“This is the breakthrough in mainstreaming climate finance that the world needs,” said Carney, looking at everything from insurance companies to sovereign wealth funds and pension funds.
Swiss Re, a reinsurance company, released a report Thursday saying climate change could cost global wealth $ 23 trillion if the worst effects are not avoided.
The We Mean Business coalition and Ceres, a sustainability nonprofit, also released an updated letter this week from 408 companies and investors – from Amazon to Ford Motor Company and General Motors – indicating their support for the emissions target of the Biden administration.
The Climate Pledge, a list of large companies committed to net zero emissions by 2040, rose to 105 signatories on the eve of the summit.
It comes as the Race to Zero – founded last year on World Environment Day – has seen its alliance of supporters expand to 3,391 businesses, cities, states, regions and universities.
And a group of 101 Nobel laureates in economics, physics, peace and other fields, urged world leaders to take stock of “the great moral question of our time.”
Their statement urged summit attendees: “Act now to avert climate catastrophe by halting the expansion of oil, gas and coal.”