Biden will host world leaders for the Climate Forum
WASHINGTON – President Biden announced Friday that the United States and Europe have pledged to cut global methane emissions by a third over the next decade, and urged other nations to join in their efforts to curb a powerful greenhouse gas that is damaging the planet warmed up.
In a virtual meeting hosted by the White House that was attended by nine Heads of State, the Presidents of the European Council and the European Commission, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres and ministers from a handful of other countries, Mr Biden mentioned the methane target “Ambitious but realistic goal” that the United States will help developing countries.
The effort comes less than two months before a United Nations climate change summit in Glasgow, Scotland, where all nations are expected to announce more ambitious efforts over the next decade to reduce emissions, mainly from fossil fuel burning. Scientists say the world will have to turn sharply away from oil, gas and coal or suffer the catastrophic effects of climate change.
“I have to tell you the consequences of inaction,” said Mr Biden. “In the past two weeks I have been traveling across the United States to see the damage and destruction from record hurricanes, record floods and forest fires,” which he noted is worsening with warming.
Alluding to the cascade of catastrophes around the globe over the past few months, from floods in Germany and Belgium to fires in Australia and Russia to a record temperature of 118 degrees Fahrenheit at the Arctic Circle, Biden told the guides: “We don’t do it much time to have.”
However, observers noted the absence of some key leaders on Friday – notably Chinese President Xi Jinping.
China dispatched Xie Zhenhua, the country’s climate commissioner. But after Mr Biden’s announcement of a new military pact with Australia and Britain as a strategic deterrent for China, experts said Mr Xi’s absence on Friday was a worrying sign that tensions between Washington and Beijing could undermine climate cooperation.
“This is problematic,” said Robert N. Stavins, Harvard University environmental economist who is closely following the international climate negotiations.
He added, “We have gone from working together in the Obama years to being confrontational – on trade, democracy in Hong Kong, security in the South China Sea and intellectual property.”
China and the US are the two largest climate polluters in the world, in that order. Mr Biden has promised to cut US emissions 50 to 52 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. Achieving this goal, however, depends in large part on the approval of a $ 3.5 trillion draft budget, which is facing headwinds in Congress.
China, meanwhile, has promised to achieve net-zero emissions by 2060, but has not yet announced any new emissions reduction targets for the next decade.
“If China does not commit next month to total emissions before 2025, it risks being isolated ahead of Glasgow and potentially held responsible if the overall negotiations fail,” said Paul Bledsoe, strategic advisor at Progressive Policy Institutes.
Brazil, another top emitter, was not included, according to the White House.
Participants included the heads of state and government from Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico and the UK. The Presidents of the EU Council and the EU Commission were present and India, Russia and Germany sent envoys.
John Kerry, Mr Biden’s climate officer, and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken also attended the meeting.
In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency is preparing tough new regulations for the oil and gas sector, which is the largest industrial source of the pollutant.
Carbon dioxide makes up most of the greenhouse gases in the US and remains in the atmosphere for centuries. Methane only lingers in the atmosphere for about a decade, but is much stronger during that time when the earth is warming.
“Reducing methane pollution is the fastest and most effective strategy we have to slow global warming. The benefits will be felt almost immediately, “Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, said in a statement.
Adam Bernstein, managing director of North Sky Capital, a clean technology investment company, called the global goal “feasible”.
“You don’t need a real technological leap for that. The technology exists today, it’s just a matter of state and local guidelines to support that goal, ”he said.