Biden urges world leaders to intensify climate fight and save planet at risk

After announcing the United States would rejoin the Paris Climate Accord the day of his inauguration last January, President Joseph R. Biden Jr. put America back at the center of global climate leadership on Thursday, announcing a commitment to halve U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2030, and urging other world leaders to act.

Speaking at his inaugural Leaders Summit on Climate, Mr. Biden warned that failure to act now would be catastrophic.

The U.S. was not the only country to announce a new nationally determined contribution (NDC); Japan announced it would cut emissions by 46 percent from 2013 levels by 2030, up from 26 percent; and Canada announced an emissions cut of 40- 45 percent from 2005 levels, also by 2030 and up from 30 percent. The EU and UK, other large economies and big emitters, had each previously announced updated NDCs. Brazil, for its part, announced a new goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2050 ahead of its previous 2060 goal. 

The decade to 2030 is known as the “decisive decade” wherein countries make substantial investments and take action on climate in order to have a shot at what is for many a goal of achieving carbon neutrality by mid-century. 

“We have to move. We have to move quickly to meet these challenges,” Biden said in his address. He said that in order to keep global warming to 1.5 C˚ below pre-industrial levels, “We must get on the path now in order to do that.”

Aside from structural inefficiencies in the Paris Agreement such as voluntary adherence, another challenge is a lack of NDC standardization. 

China, accounting for about 28 percent of the world’s total emissions, restated its goal of peaking emissions by 2030 before achieving carbon neutrality by 2060. For reference, U.S. emissions peaked in 2007. 

President Xi Jinping also said China would “strictly control” projects to increase coal-fired capacity and “strictly limit” consumption of coal to 2025 by which it will begin to “phase it down” by 2030. 

China also announced its commitment to the 2016 Kigali amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which aims to phase out climate polluting HFCs globally. Biden has signaled his support for the amendment; however, the U.S. has yet to ratify it. 

Although the U.S. and China had previously agreed to work together on the Paris Agreement’s implementation, neither has announced a specific initiative. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, the world’s third largest GHG polluter, announced the India- U.S. Climate and Clean Energy Agenda 2030 Partnership to promote “green finance and clean technology” in India. 

As a self-identified “climate responsible developing country,” India sees itself as being a potential model of sustainable development for other developing countries. 

President Vladimir Putin of Russia, by some estimates the world’s fourth largest polluter, said Russia was interested in cooperating on joint research and climate projects including on low-carbon technologies. It also seeks to attract foreign investment in clean technology. 

Along with its most ambitious climate target ever, the U.S. also unveiled its first Climate Finance Plan that focuses on international climate finance. As part of the plan, the U.S., by 2024, would double its annual climate finance to developing countries from Obama era levels – and as part of this goal, triple its finance for climate adaptation to developing countries. 

“We’re here at this summit to discuss how each of us, each country, can set higher climate ambitions, that will in term create good paying jobs, advance innovative technologies, and help vulnerable countries adapt to climate impacts,” Biden said on the purpose of the summit leading up to COP26 in Glasgow in November. 

By COP26, the goal is for all countries to arrive with updated and ambitious NDCs, and for developed countries to strengthen their commitment to providing $100 billion in climate finance to developing and climate vulnerable countries by 2030. If countries really wanted to meet the moment, they could agree on a global carbon price.  

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