Washington (AP) – With a new 2030 climate protection target and an international summit, the US has covered the world stage in the fight against global warming.
In an online meeting with 40 heads of state or government in the White House, US President Joe Biden called for swift action to contain the climate crisis. He himself announced new steps: the US wants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least half compared to 2005 by the end of the decade. The exact goal is to reduce emissions at a macroeconomic level by 50 to 52 percent. Amid major international tensions, Biden also brought the government leaders of Russia and China to the table.
With the new climate goal, the US meets a requirement of the Paris Climate Agreement, in which Biden had returned the country to function on the first day. His predecessor Donald Trump had left the agreement. It stipulates that the signatory states improve their climate goals every five years. All partners should officially do this at the World Climate Conference in Glasgow in November.
The two-day online climate summit organized by Biden is considered an important preparation for Glasgow. Experts agree that much more needs to be done worldwide by 2030 to keep global warming well below two degrees, as agreed by nearly 200 countries in Paris in 2015. Compared to pre-industrial times, the earth has already warmed about 1.2 degrees.
Biden called for a joint display of power and sees the largest economies in particular as an obligation. “The signs are unmistakable. Science is undeniable. The cost of doing nothing is getting higher, ”he warned. Biden appealed to industrialized countries to mobilize money for climate protection and announced more US aid for developing countries.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for a global coalition for greenhouse gas neutrality. Every country, every region, every city, every company and every industry has to participate. Taxes on CO2 emissions are needed, coal and oil should no longer be subsidized and coal combustion in industrialized countries should end by 2030. “We are seeing constantly rising sea levels, scorching temperatures, devastating tropical cyclones and epic wildfires,” Guterres warned. “We’re on the edge of the abyss.”
Given the dramatic situation, Biden – despite great tensions with both countries over various other issues – also brought key players Russia and China to the top table.
China’s head of state Xi Jinping pledged to work with the international community to meet commitments under the Paris climate agreement. Xi promised to reduce his country’s coal consumption from 2025 and strict control of coal-fired power plants. China is the most densely populated country in the world and the largest consumer of coal and carbon dioxide – so it plays a pivotal role in the fight against global warming like the US. While the government repeatedly confirms climate goals, critics criticize further expansion of coal energy at the local level and an increase in coal production.
Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin also showed a willingness to cooperate at the top. The entire world community must join forces in the fight against global warming. The discussion at the summit shows “how deeply we all share concerns about climate change”. Russia is ready to offer “a slew of” joint climate projects, Putin said. The largest country in the world is mainly affected by the rise in temperature in terms of surface area. In Siberia, the permafrost is thawing, so scientists are warning of the release of large amounts of carbon.
Other states have also made pledges: Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced that his country would cut emissions by 46 percent by fiscal year 2030/2031 compared to fiscal year 2013. So far, a reduction of only 26 percent had been planned. Canada, in turn, wants to cut emissions by 40 to 45 percent between 2005 and 2030, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised.
Brazilian head of state Jair Bolsonaro, who has come under international pressure, promised measures to preserve the Amazon. Brazil will end illegal logging by 2030. That would cut its emissions by 50 percent by that date.
On the day before the climate summit, the European Union had officially committed itself to reducing greenhouse gases by at least 55 percent by 2030 and an economy without new climate burdens by 2050. The reference year here is 1990. Due to the different starting points – 1990 and 2005 – the goals are difficult to compare. According to the EU reading, a US target of minus 50 percent from 2005 corresponds to a reduction of 43 percent from 1990.
Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) promised that Germany would do its part to achieve the EU target. She welcomed the US’s new climate goal. This is a clear commitment to the fight against global warming and an important signal to the world community.
In addition to the bare figures, however, it is about the political signal: with the summit, Biden not only wants to underline the urgency of climate protection – but also that the US is back at the international negotiating table after four years of Trump. He wants to make the US a pioneer in climate protection again, has made the fight against global warming a priority and advertises – especially as an embassy at home – the economic opportunities of climate protection. The energy transition, the expansion of electro-mobility and infrastructure measures can create millions of well-paid jobs.
On the occasion of the American climate summit, the activists of Fridays for Future are calling for worldwide protests this Friday – also in Germany. Under the motto “No more empty promises”, they call for more commitment to climate protection.