US wants to lead by example as countries pledge climate action

The United States has pledged to halve its carbon emissions by the end of this decade, with President Joe Biden vowing that the new targets will help create jobs and keep America competitive.

Canada, Japan and South Korea also made new climate commitments at Biden’s two-day virtual environmental summit, which involved 40 world leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, as the United States sought to persuade more countries to cut emissions.

Xi pledged to “gradually reduce” coal consumption within five years from 2025, the first time the Chinese leader has pledged to reduce coal consumption.

At a late-night press briefing by Beijing officials after Xi’s speech, however, it was noted that this would still allow China’s coal consumption to grow until 2026.

Su Wei, deputy secretary general of China’s state planner, said coal is still needed to ensure a stable power supply. “We need a stable source of electricity and have no other options, so for a while we will need coal-fired electricity” to supplement unstable renewable energy sources, he said. -he declares.

The US-led summit on Earth Day, just three months after the US joined the Paris climate agreement, is an attempt to restore American leadership on an issue that has been a central priority for the Biden administration.

“We are here at this summit to discuss how each of us, each country, can set higher climate ambitions which will in turn create well-paying jobs,” Biden told the assembled leaders. “We have no choice, we have to achieve it.”

Biden said the UN COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November would be essential to tackle “the existential crisis of our time.”

The new U.S. targets will reduce their annual carbon emissions by 1.5 to 2.4 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2030 from its current trajectory, according to calculations by Climate Action Tracker.

Global annual carbon emissions will be around 33 billion tonnes this year, according to the International Energy Agency.

South Korea has pledged to stop funding overseas coal projects, which was requested by John Kerry, the US climate envoy, during his visit there last weekend.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said his country would cut emissions by 46% by the end of this decade, compared to 2013 levels.

However, Greta Thunberg, the Swedish climate activist, said the targets were “grossly insufficient” and full of loopholes.

“Let’s call their bullshit,” said Thunberg, 18. a video posted on Twitter the same day as the Biden summit. “We are not so naive that we think that everything will be solved by countries and companies that set vague distant targets.

Global temperatures have risen by more than 1 ° C since 1850, and the UN’s COP26 climate summit later this year will try to put the world on track to limit that warming to 1.5 ° C. , the objective set by the Paris climate agreement.

So far, commitments made under the 2015 Paris Agreement, which was endorsed by 197 countries, fall far short of what would be needed to achieve the 1.5 ° C target, even including the new objectives announced at the summit.

The UK, which is hosting COP26, has urged other rich countries to give more money to climate finance, an issue that will be a key sticking point in Glasgow.

A successful summit would require “the richest nations to come together and go beyond the $ 100 billion pledge they have already made.” [in annual climate finance]”Said Boris Johnson, British Prime Minister.

Offering some light-hearted moments at the top, Johnson said tackling climate change was not just about ‘bunny hugs’ and was truly a job-creating opportunity.

The Prime Minister also praised the UK’s record in expanding its economy while reducing emissions. “Cake, eat, eat, that’s my message to you,” he said.

Additional reporting by Ed White and James Politi

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