Biden climate summit: the good, the disappointing and the road to COP26

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Last week, President Joe Biden convened 40 world leaders to make new commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and step up efforts to help developing countries tackle the climate crisis.

As stated in the landmark Paris agreement, now is the time for countries to bridge the gap between their ambition to limit temperature increases to nearly 1.5 degrees Celsius and the commitments made in Paris, which amounted to increases. temperature of about 3 degrees.

It may not sound like much, but these small, average temperature increases will be truly catastrophic – causing widespread droughts, flooding, massive migrations, water shortages, loss of species, and proliferation of invasive species.

Most climate watchers would agree that US Presidential Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry has launched a new competitive impetus into the global climate conversation that has been lacking for the past four years – not only in Trump’s America, but in many other places happy to hide behind. US Climate Inaction.

U.S. climate diplomacy is also picking up momentum as the most important climate conference since Paris, COP26 – to be held in Glasgow in November approaches – subject to the status of the pandemic and the global deployment of the vaccination.

So what was good and what was disappointing?

Quickly exiting the door, the Biden administration has delivered on its hopes of pledging to reduce U.S. GHG emissions by 50 to 52 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels – an ambitious commitment that will require a very big effort. Japan has pledged to reduce 46-50% below 2013 levels by 2030 (44-48% from 2005 levels), but it is less inclined than Western countries to set targets ” stretched ”.

Three governments and nine companies also built on work done by the Environmental Defense Fund, announcing that the LEAF Coalition will mobilize at least $ 1 billion this year for large-scale forest protection and sustainable development, which is designed to benefit indigenous peoples and forest communities.

I am encouraged by South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s pledge to end public funding for coal-fired power plants abroad, but was unsure of what this might mean for coal in the country itself. . South Korea has yet to set its revised 2030 target and its current target is just a business-as-usual emissions reduction, which it will no longer do.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has pledged to limit the use of coal over the next five years and reduce coal emissions over the next five years, while promoting greener investments through his Belt Initiative. and Road ” – but stopped before the more radical and absolutely crucial commitment to end coal funding in the BRI. Brazil’s promise to become climate neutral by 2050 and eliminate illegal deforestation by 2030 has been eclipsed by critics inside and outside the country for President Jair Bolsonaro’s encouragement to grabbers of illegal land and the continued monitoring of a significant increase in deforestation in the Amazon.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has not announced any new commitments, with the world’s fourth-largest carbon emitter instead referring to vague efforts to “significantly limit” net emissions by 2030. On the only slightly lighter side , Russia has explicitly called methane a problem – although in a vice case potentially paying tribute to virtue, the goals and timeline it has set for itself do not match the urgency involved in the rhetoric. From India, we heard Prime Minister Modi reiterate a previously announced pledge to install 450 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2030, but sadly he didn’t mention an emissions target for 2030.

Some countries, whose economies currently depend on the supply of fossil fuels to the rest of the world, have still not accepted the program. What countries like Saudi Arabia and Australia (yes, an interesting bunch) should take away from the top is that the markets they sell in are in decline. With the shift from coal to South Korea, China and Japan, fossil fuel suppliers will see their markets disappear. It is time for these states to recognize that they need to change their economies in order to thrive in a zero carbon world rather than cling to outdated business models.

How to go further, faster on the road to COP26

There is no doubt that the reemergence of the United States as a climate leader has reignited the debate, but climate action is not all about numbers on a page. It’s about figuring out exactly how to capitalize on those numbers and holding countries accountable for making them happen. Only with detailed implementation plans can countries build confidence in their ability to keep pace – anything less at this point in the climate crisis can be called “green washing”.

Make no mistake: the summit was a good start, but there is still a long way to go for COP26 to be a radical change like Paris. Now is the time for the UK COP26 Presidency to step out of the shadows and into the spotlight created by Kerry and her company. They need to take the lead decisively to maintain that momentum and ensure that the rhetoric from the top translates into real change.

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