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US, other countries deepen climate goals at Earth Day summit

Reuters/Washington
Filed on April 23, 2021 | Last updated on April 23, 2021 at 01.00 am
South Korean President Moon Jae-in speaks as the screen showing world leaders at the virtual Leaders Summit on Climate, at the presidential Blue House in Seoul. — AP

Leaders from 40 countries attend two-day virtual summit convened by Joe Biden


The US and other countries hiked their targets for slashing greenhouse gas emissions at a global climate summit hosted by President Joe Biden, an event meant to resurrect US leadership in the fight against global warming.

Biden unveiled the goal to cut emissions by 50 per cent to 52 per cent from 2005 levels at the start of a two-day climate summit kicked off on Earth Day and attended virtually by leaders of 40 countries.

The US, the world’s second-leading emitter after China, seeks to reclaim global leadership in the fight against global warming after former President Donald Trump withdrew the country from international efforts to cut emissions.

“This is the decade we must make decisions that will avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis,” Biden, a Democrat, said at the White House.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the new US goal “game changing” as two other countries made new pledges.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who visited Biden at the White House this month, raised Japan’s target for cutting emissions to 46 per cent by 2030, up from 26 per cent. Environmentalists wanted a pledge of at least 50 per cent while Japan’s powerful business lobby has pushed for national policies that favour coal.

Canada’s Prime Minster Justin Trudeau, meanwhile, raised his country’s goal to a cut of 40-45 per cent by 2030 below 2005 levels, up from 30 per cent.

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro announced his most ambitious environmental goal yet, saying the country would reach emissions neutrality by 2050, 10 years earlier than the previous goal.

Greenpeace UK’s head of climate, Kate Blagojevic, said the summit had more targets than an archery competition.

“Targets, on their own, won’t lead to emissions cuts,” she said. “That takes real policy and money. And that’s where the whole world is still way off course.”

Most of the countries did not offer new emissions goals. Chinese President Xi Jinping said China expects its carbon emissions to peak before 2030 and the country will achieve net zero emissions by 2060.

Xi said China will gradually reduce its coal use from 2025 to 2030. China, a leader in producing technology for renewable energy like solar panels, burns large amounts of coal for electricity generation.

Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed giving preferential treatment for foreign investment in clean energy projects, but also made an apparent reference to the US being historically the world’s top greenhouse gas polluter. “It is no secret that the conditions that facilitated global warming and associated problems go way back,” Putin said.

The US climate goal marks a milestone in Biden’s broader plan to decarbonize the US economy entirely by 2050 — an agenda he says can create millions of good-paying jobs but which many Republicans say will damage the economy.

The US emissions cuts are expected to come from power plants, automobiles, and other sectors across the economy. Sector-specific goals will be laid out later this year.

The new U.S. target nearly doubles former President Barack Obama’s pledge of an emissions cut of 26-28 per cetn below 2005 levels by 2025.

How Washington intends to reach its climate goals will be crucial to cementing US credibility on global warming, amid international concerns that America’s commitment to a clean energy economy can shift drastically from one administration to the next.

Biden’s recently introduced $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan contains numerous measures that could deliver some of the emissions cuts needed this decade, including a clean energy standard to achieve net zero emissions in the power sector by 2035 and moves to electrify the vehicle fleet.

But the measures need to be passed by Congress before becoming reality.

World leaders aim to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, a threshold scientists say can prevent the worst impacts of climate change.

A Biden administration official said with the new U.S. target, enhanced commitments from Japan and Canada, and prior targets from the European Union and Britain, countries accounting for more than half the world’s economy were now committed to reductions to achieve the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal.





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