U.S. President Joe Biden praised world leaders for coming together on climate change and urged them to make good on promises as he closed a virtual climate change summit hosted from the White House.
“The commitments we’ve made must become real,” Biden said Friday on the last day of the two-day summit that involved 40 world leaders.
Biden pledged during the summit to cut U.S. greenhouse gas pollution by 50-52% by 2030. Japan and Canada also raised climate commitments during the summit while the European Union and Britain announced stronger climate targets earlier this week.
John Kerry, Biden’s climate envoy, said that more than half the world’s economy has now pledged action to stop warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, a goal set by the 2015 Paris Agreement.
Kerry said Biden’s call for modernizing U.S. infrastructure to operate more cleanly would provide long-term benefits for the U.S. economy. “No one is being asked for a sacrifice,” Kerry said. “This is an opportunity.”
Biden’s commitment is the most ambitious U.S. climate goal ever, nearly doubling the cuts the Obama administration pledged to meet in the Paris climate accord.
The White House arranged for billionaires, CEOs and union executives to help promote Biden’s plan to reduce the U.S. economy’s reliance on fossil fuels by investing trillions of dollars in clean-energy technology, research and infrastructure while simultaneously saving the planet.
Billionaire and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg declared Friday, “We can’t beat climate change without a historic amount of new investment,” adding “We have to do more, faster to cut emissions.”
Leaders from Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Denmark, Norway, Poland, Spain, Nigeria and Vietnam participated in Friday’s session, along with representatives from the U.S. transportation, energy and commerce departments.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said hundreds of Israeli start-ups are working to improve battery storage for renewable energy.
Denmark’s Prime Minister, Mette Frederiksen, renewed her government’s pledge to end oil and gas exploration in the North Sea.
The new U.S. target for greenhouse gas pollution is relative to 2005 levels and the White House says efforts to reach them include moving toward carbon pollution-free electricity, boosting fuel efficiency of cars and trucks, supporting carbon capture at industrial facilities and reducing the use of methane.
U.S. allies have also vowed to cut emissions, aiming to convince other countries to follow suit ahead of the November U.N. climate change summit in Glasgow, where governments will determine the extent of each country’s reductions in fossil fuel emissions.
Japan announced new plans to cut emissions by 46%, while South Korea said it would halt public funding of new coal-fired power plants. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada would increase its cuts in fossil fuel pollution by about 10% to at least 40%.
The two-day summit was part of Biden’s efforts to restore U.S. leadership on the issue after his predecessor, Donald Trump, withdrew the United States from the legally binding Paris Agreement on Climate Change in 2017. Biden reversed the decision shortly after taking office.
There is skepticism about the commitment announced Thursday by Biden and there is certain to be a partisan political battle over his pledge to reduce fossil fuel use in every sector of the U.S. economy.
“Toothless requests of our foreign adversaries and maximum pain for American citizens,” reacted the top Republican party leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, calling Biden’s climate plan full of “misplaced priorities.”
World leaders agreed to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius in the 2015 U.N. Paris climate agreement and to aim for 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Averaged over the entire globe, temperatures have increased more than 1.1 degree Celsius since 1980. Scientists link the increase to more severe heat waves, droughts, wildfires, storms and other impacts. And they note that the rate of temperature rise has accelerated since the 1980s.