Biden Holding Virtual Leaders Summit and Other Climate Action News by Marcia Robbins, April 21 2021, 7 Comments

In the midst of U.S. Climate Action Week happening now, President Joe Biden has invited 40 world leaders to a virtual Leaders Summit on Climate beginning fittingly this Earth Day, April 22, 2021 and running through April 23rd. This is the President’s next big step in global climate leadership after rejoining the Paris Agreement. What is the state of climate change and what can countries around the world do to address it?

The New York Times reported this week that President Biden intends for the U.S. to cut greenhouse gas emissions at least in half by 2030. We’ll know more today, but that would be in line with recommendations from climate activists, including the America Is All In coalition of businesses, local governments, and other organizations.

And what was John Kerry, Biden’s Climate Envoy, doing in China last week? Is there any substance in the agreement announced last Saturday?

The Ins and Outs of U.S. Participation in the Paris Agreement on Climate

What a difference a new year makes! One of the first priorities for President Biden was ensuring the U.S. re-engages with the world by reversing its 2017 exit from the Paris Agreement on Climate by former President Donald Trump. The Obama administration, under leadership of then Secretary of State John Kerry, helped forge a complex global Paris Agreement of nearly 200 countries when it was agreed upon in 2015 and ratified in 2016. John Kerry has now resumed a key role as U.S. Special Envoy on Climate, appointed by President Biden. For four years during the Trump Administration, the U.S. ostracized itself from a global leadership role on climate action, excising the words “climate change” from government documents and websites, backtracking on emissions standards and weakening many other environmental standards.  

The Leaders Summit on Climate Convenes 

In information released by the U.S. State Department, the high-level summit of 40 country leaders will “work to address the climate crisis, including emissions reductions, finance, innovation and job creation, and resilience and adaptation.” It is intended as a big step to lay the groundwork for success at the 26th annual UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), which will take place in November 2021 and will be hosted by the U.K. in Glasgow.

In resuming a leadership role that led to the Paris Agreement, the U.S. will reconstitute the Major Economies Forum (MEF) on Energy and Climate at the Summit. Leaders of the world’s major economies have been invited to attend the summit and original members of the forum represent 80% of global emissions and 80% of global GDP.

The primary objective of the summit is to catalyze world economies to reduce global emissions enough to ensure the goal of capping global warming at a 1.5 degrees Celsius rise above preindustrial levels is possible. Accomplishing this goal will be tough and it is important to engage public and private sectors to spur financing of climate action jobs and transformational technologies.

China and the U.S. Reset Climate Change Cooperation

John Kerry, U.S. climate envoy, flew to China last week to reset mutual interests and cooperate on climate change. He met with his counterpart for three days, underscoring the seriousness of their engagement, in what was described as a productive discussion on accelerating carbon neutral goals. China has indicated previously its intent to reach peak emissions before 2030 and attain carbon neutrality by 2060.

The two countries agreed to cooperate and in a joint statement released last Saturday, said both governments would develop long-term strategies to reach carbon neutrality. They are “committed to cooperating with each other and with other countries to tackle the climate crisis, which must be addressed with seriousness and urgency that it demands.” While lacking in detailed commitments, the statement is a good beginning for the Biden Administration in its working relationship with China on the climate crisis and solid cooperation between the world’s top two emitters of carbon dioxide. The New York Times reports that China accounts for 28% of the world’s emissions total, while the U.S. is second at 15%.

China’s leader Xi Jinping announced this week that he will attend the summit and deliver a speech. It will be his first meeting with President Biden since the inauguration.

America is All In Coalition Is All In On Strategic Goals for Climate Action

America is All In is a coalition of businesses, local governments, industry, universities, tribal nations, religious institutions, healthcare organizations and cultural institutions launched in February 2021. It is a successor to the We Are Still In coalition, formed in 2017 to oppose U.S. exit from the Paris Agreement during the Trump Administration.

The new coalition is advocating for emissions reductions of 50% below 2005 levels by 2030 in the U.S. These numbers are based on an updated analysis which found that a comprehensive “all-of-society strategy for action” by Federal and non-Federal entities can deliver on this goal and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The key to achieving success is participation of the electricity and transportation sectors as they represent 80% of the necessary reductions.

EcoPlum was an early participant in We Are Still In and has joined the new America is All In coalition.