Global climate summit: President Joe Biden sets new target for US to halve emissions by 2030

Washington: President Joe Biden on Thursday announced an ambitious new target for the US to achieve a 50-52 per cent reduction from 2005 levels in economy-wide net greenhouse gas pollution in 2030 as he kicked off his country’s first-ever climate summit attended by 40 world leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In his opening address at the virtual summit, Biden called on the world leaders gathered at the summit on Earth Day to take action within their own countries to curb emissions. “No nation can solve this crisis on our own,” said Biden, who restored the US’ commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change.

While former president Barack Obama signed the Paris Climate Accord his successor Donald Trump pulled the US out, calling it unfair to American coal miners and the energy industry. Biden has rejoined the landmark accord soon after assuming office in January.

Under the Paris agreement, each country has to set its own emission-reduction targets, known as nationally determined contributions and the pact’s goal was to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius.

“We have to step up,” Biden told the summit, which was being attended by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel among others.

Biden said the US was committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 50-52 per cent below its 2005 emissions levels by 2030.

In his address, UN chief Guterres called on the world leaders to put a price on carbon, end subsidies for fossil fuels, and stop the financing of coal and building of new coal power plants as he sounded alarm that the “the world is on red alert.” He sounded a dire warning that “Mother Nature is not waiting? and “we need a green planet ? but the world is on red alert.”

“All countries “starting with major emitters” should submit new and more ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions for mitigation, adaptation and finance, laying out actions and policies for the next 10 years aligned with a 2050 net-zero pathway,” he said, adding that those commitments need to be translated into concrete, immediate action.

China, India, Russia, Japan and the US are among the world’s biggest emitters.

Speaking via video link, Prime Minister Modi asserted that India has taken “many bold steps” on clean energy, energy efficiency, and bio-diversity despite its development challenges and that the country’s per capita carbon footprint is 60 per cent lower than the global average.

“As a climate-responsible developing country, India welcomes partners to create templates of sustainable development in India. These can also help other developing countries, who need affordable access to green finance and clean technologies,” he said.

Modi also pitched for making the current decade a “decade of action” against climate change. “We, in India, are doing our part. Our ambitious renewable energy target of 450 Gigawatts by 2030 shows our commitment,” he said.

In his address, President Xi welcomed America’s return to the multilateral governance on climate change and said the countries should honour commitments to reduce carbon emissions as he reiterated China’s pledge to peak carbon emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.

“We need to work on the basis of international law, follow the principle of equity and justice, and focus on effective actions,” Xi said, calling on countries to uphold the UN-centered international system. “In this process, we must join hands, not point fingers at each other; we must maintain continuity, not reverse course easily; and we must honour commitments, not go back on promises,” Xi said.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina put forward four suggestions to fight climate change challenges with a strong collective response. Describing Bangladesh as “a climate-vulnerable country”, she said her country represents the interests of other small developing nations with similar vulnerability. “Despite being a climate-vulnerable country with resource constraints, Bangladesh has emerged as a global leader on adaptation and mitigation,” she said.

Bhutan is not only carbon-neutral, it is carbon-negative, said Prime Minister Lotay Tshering of his small Himalayan nation. This is because of its significant hydropower operations, he said. However, he said, “we remain highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.”

British Prime Minister Johnson said that he is confident that the world can build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic if it “builds back greener” and that the richer nations of the world would need to take the lead on investments.

He pointed to the UK’s credentials as the first country to pass legislation for net zero and that it was halfway to its target of achieving net zero carbon emissions. He flagged a speeding up of these goals ahead of the UK’s COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November by legislating to deliver 78 per cent of the reductions needed to reach that goal by 2035.

“We can do this together across the world. It’s going to mean the richest nations coming together and exceeding the USD 100 billion commitment that they already made in 2009 and I stress how important that is,” he said.

The US-hosted two-day Climate Leaders Summit is seen as building momentum on the road to the COP Biodiversity Summit in Kunming, China, in October and the COP26 summit in Glasgow, Scotland, in November. 

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