President Joe Biden hosted a virtual climate summit on April 22, Earth Day, and April 23, gathering countries responsible for approximately 80 percent of global emissions and global GDP. The goal of the Leaders Summit on Climate? Underscore the urgency and the economic benefits of stronger climate action and re-establish the United States in a leadership role.
Over the course of two days and eight sessions, Biden gathered heads of state and government, as well as leaders and representatives from international organizations, businesses, subnational governments, and indigenous communities to rally the world in tackling the climate crisis, demonstrate the economic opportunities of the future, and affirm the need for unprecedented global cooperation and ambition to meet the moment.
On the first day of the summit, Biden announced a new ambitious 2030 emissions target, otherwise known as the nationally determined contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement. Biden pledged America would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 50 to 52 percent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels – the most ambitious target the U.S. has set to date. “We’ll get there by investing in American workers, American jobs, American infrastructure, and building a stronger and more resilient economy,” Biden said at the summit.
“Today’s final session is not about the threat of climate change poses; it’s about the opportunity that addressing climate change provides. It’s an opportunity to create millions of good-paying jobs around the world and innovate — in innovative sectors — you know, jobs that bring greater quality of life, greater dignity to the people performing those jobs in every nation,” Biden said during the second day of the summit.
The president urged the 40 invited world leaders to use the summit as an opportunity to outline how their countries will contribute to stronger climate ambition. Given that more than 85 percent of emissions come from beyond U.S. borders, Biden emphasized that domestic action must go hand in hand with international leadership. Many countries announced ambitious new climate targets and nations accounting for half of the world’s economy have now committed to the emission reductions allegedly needed globally to keep the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5-degrees Celsius within reach. Japan, Canada, The European Union, and Brazil are among the nations that pledged to cut emissions.
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Biden’s, and especially the U.S.’s, comeback into the climate change battlefield is watched closely by international leaders. Biden is attempting to make a clear cut from the Trump administration on climate change. On his first day in office, Biden rejoined the 2015 Paris Agreement after Former President Donald Trump officially withdrew – the first country to ever do so – in 2020. In Biden’s first few days in office, he also took executive actions such as the Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad. As part of this order, the President charged federal agencies to take a comprehensive approach to address the climate crisis. Just days before the climate summit, the U.S. and China – the world’s two biggest carbon polluters – agreed to cooperate with each other and other countries to tackle climate change with “seriousness and urgency.”
So, the question is, is it enough? Some climate activists are pushing back on the initiatives announced at the summit. The Climate Action Tracker shows that the U.S. should aim to reduce its national emissions by at least 57 to 63 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 and support other countries in order to be consistent with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5-degrees Celsius limit.
Climate activist Greta Thunberg is among those who have denounced the world leaders for “hypothetical targets” announced at the summit. Thunberg said there was a gap between what is being done and what needs to be done to stay below the 1.5 degrees Celsius target.
“These targets could be a great start if it wasn’t for the fact that they’re full of gaps and loopholes,” Thunberg said.
Whether these initiatives will be enough to curb climate change is unclear. But it is true that this summit is only a start. “This summit is a start — a start of a road that will take us to Glasgow for the U.N. Climate Change Conference in November where we’re going to make these commitments real, putting all of our nations on path to a secure, prosperous, and sustainable future,” Biden said at the summit. The 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) will be hosted in the United Kingdom from November 1 to 12. The COP26 summit will bring parties together to accelerate action toward the goals of the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
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