Biden’s climate summit pushing for world with zero net emissions by 2050
By Lucia Leal
Washington, Apr 22 (EFE).- The United States, Brazil, Japan and South Korea on Thursday announced new goals for cutting their emissions and achieving climate neutrality by 2050, an objective that the European Union has also adopted and which other nations such as China and Russia have promised to work toward.
President Joe Biden is trying to reassert US leadership in the fight against climate change three months after rejoining the Paris Climate Accord by organizing a virtual summit on Thursday in which some 40 world leaders participated.
“Scientists tell us that this is the decisive decade, this is the decade we must make decisions that will avoid the worst consequences of a climate crisis,” Biden said on the first day of the two-day summit, adding that his administration’s commitments “will set America on a path of a net-zero emissions economy by no later than 2050.”
This new US commitment – which consists of cutting emissions between 50 and 52 percent by 2030 from the 2005 levels – is a doubling of its initial objective under the Paris Accord.
The US goal is just a bit less ambitious than what the EU has taken on, with the European bloc planning to cut emissions by at least 55 percent by the end of this decade, but Washington’s commitment to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 is identical to that of the EU.
In addition, Biden committed the US to double by 2024 the funds it devotes annually to financing green initiatives in developing countries, a move that could raise the costs of disasters and conflicts, he said.
The US announcements sought to spur further action in the run-up to the COP26 summit in November in Glasgow, Scotland, and they were welcomed by many of the leaders participating in the online summit after four years of hostility from the Donald Trump administration towards the international climate agenda.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that she was very happy the US is once again working with the EU on climate policies.
The summit also appears to be a rare area of cooperation between the US and its two great international adversaries – China and Russia – with whom relations have deteriorated since Biden took office and whose presidents, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, respectively, participated in the first day of the summit.
Xi said that China, the world’s biggest polluter, “will strictly limit” the increase in its coal consumption in the coming years and reiterated his objective for China to achieve emissions neutrality in 2060, a decade later than the US.
Putin made no specific announcements during the summit, but he noted that he wants Russia to reduce its emissions over the next three decades to levels below those of the EU and touted his country’s “colossal” contribution to reducing global emissions.
There were also no new commitments from India, another of the world’s biggest polluters, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi noted his efforts to double consumption of renewable energy by the end of this decade.
Tokyo committed itself to cutting its greenhouse gas emissions to 46 percent of 2005 levels by 2030, while Seoul promised to raise its cutback goal for this year, which currently stands at 24.4 percent.
The goal announced by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to attain emissions neutrality by 2050 – a decade sooner than previously announced – was received with skepticism from the US special climate envoy, John Kerry, who later told reporters that it remains to be seen whether or not Brasilia will meet that goal.
Addressing the world leaders on the first day of the summit were Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Colombia’s Ivan Duque, Argentina’s Alberto Fernandez and Chile’s Sebastian Piñera.
Lopez Obrador claimed that he intended to end Mexico’s oil exports, saving petroleum to meet domestic needs, while Duque and Fernandez focused on calling for “innovative mechanisms” for debt cancellations in exchange for climate action and “renewing the international financial architecture,” respectively.
Piñera, meanwhile, proposed establishing a protected zone for the Antarctic’s maritime resources, an issue on which Chile has already made progress.
International Monetary Fund director Kristalina Georgieva called for a “robust” minimum carbon price among the G20 countries, which are the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters, and Pope Francis also sent a message to the summit on Earth Day, saying that now “is the time to act” because the world is “on the brink.”