Earth Day Week 2021 is a significant moment for climate diplomacy. Two key events: the release of the United States’ national carbon emissions reduction plan and the Climate Leaders Summit, hosted by President Biden, have the potential to invigorate international cooperation on climate change after years of stagnation.
The US Nationally Determined Contribution Under the Paris Agreement
Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, countries are required to submit what are known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) which detail each country’s climate action plan, including greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. Every five years, countries are required to revise their NDCs and presumably ratchet up their levels of ambition. In 2015, the Obama administration committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 percent by 2025 compared to 2005 levels. This time around there is pressure on the Biden administration to significantly boost reduction targets to 50% by 2030 — or more.
In an interview with Reuters Antonio Guterres pressed the Biden administration to use 2010 as the baseline for a 50% reduction in admissions, as opposed to 2005, as a way to encourage other countries to do the same. “My expectation is that the United States will be able to present a reduction of emissions for 2030, in relation to 2010 levels, above 50%,” Guterres told Reuters in an interview. “If it happens, I have no doubt that it will have very important consequences in relation to Japan, in relation to China, in relation to Russia — in relation to other areas of the world that have not yet entirely defined these levels,” he said.
The White House Convenes a Climate Leaders Summit
The venue in which the Biden administration will unveil America’s greenhouse gas reduction plan is a (virtual) summit of about 40 world leaders hosted by the White House from April 22 and 23rd. The decision to host this event on Earth Day and as the platform for unveiling the administration’s domestic climate action plan is a very transparent effort to re-asset American leadership on climate diplomacy after the last four years of retrenchment.
The timing of this event is notable for the fact that it comes about seven months before a major UN climate conference in Glasgow. It will be there where parties to the Paris Agreement formally present and unveil their country’s Nationally Determined Contribution. A diverse group of world leaders are participating.
- Prime Minister Gaston Browne, Antigua and Barbuda
- President Alberto Fernandez, Argentina
- Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Australia
- Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh
- Prime Minister Lotay Tshering, Bhutan
- President Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil
- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Canada
- President Sebastián Piñera, Chile
- President Xi Jinping, People’s Republic of China
- President Iván Duque Márquez, Colombia
- President Félix Tshisekedi, Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, Denmark
- President Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission
- President Charles Michel, European Council
- President Emmanuel Macron, France
- President Ali Bongo Ondimba, Gabon
- Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India
- President Joko Widodo, Indonesia
- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel
- Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Italy
- Prime Minister Andrew Holness, Jamaica
- Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Japan
- President Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya
- President David Kabua, Republic of the Marshall Islands
- President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Mexico
- Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand
- President Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria
- Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Norway
- President Andrzej Duda, Poland
- President Moon Jae-in, Republic of Korea
- President Vladimir Putin, The Russian Federation
- King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
- Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Singapore
- President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa
- Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, Spain
- President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey
- President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, United Arab Emirates
- Prime Minister Boris Johnson, United Kingdom
- President Nguyễn Phú Trọng, Vietnam
What the UN Thinks About Biden’s Climate Diplomacy So Far
This article, from Reuters, includes an exclusive interview with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in which he discusses the current state of play of climate diplomacy and the United States’ renewed commitment to the Paris Agreement
Note: This story originally appeared in Reuters and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story. UN Dispatch is a member of the collaborative.
WASHINGTON/BRUSSELS – United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres wants the United States to commit this week to at least halving its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 — a move he said could unlock similar action from the world’s other large emitters.
The United States, the world’s biggest economy and second-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases behind China, will host a virtual climate change summit on April 22-23. Washington has urged world leaders to use the event as an opportunity to pledge more ambitious emissions cuts.
Guterres said the White House’s own pledge needed to set the bar high.
“My expectation is that the United States will be able to present a reduction of emissions for 2030, in relation to 2010 levels, above 50%,” Guterres told Reuters in an interview.
“If it happens, I have no doubt that it will have very important consequences in relation to Japan, in relation to China, in relation to Russia — in relation to other areas of the world that have not yet entirely defined these levels,” he said.
The White House is widely expected to unveil a target to cut emissions at least 50% by 2030, from 2005 levels. That would be equivalent to a 47% reduction by 2030 when compared with 2010 levels, according to research firm the Rhodium Group.
With climate change already worsening heat waves, strengthening hurricanes and making wildfires more ferocious, Guterres called this week’s summit a “make it or break it” moment for climate action.
Scientists say global emissions must plummet this decade and reach net zero by 2050 in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels in order to prevent cataclysmic climate impacts.
“The worst risk is that we don’t reach 1.5 degrees as a limit, that we go over it, and that we precipitate the world into a catastrophic situation,” he said, urging all major emitters to set targets for drastic emissions reductions this decade.
Given the urgency of the climate crisis, Guterres said he hoped the next major UN climate summit, known as COP26, could be held in person in November in Glasgow.
The UN along with this year’s British hosts are discussing how to ensure participants can be vaccinated and attend the conference in person, he said.
“I appeal for all those that have the capacity to do so, to create the conditions of vaccination that will allow for a safe COP in Glasgow, with the physical presence of all those that need to be there,” Guterres said.
The UN climate conference was already postponed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Britain is fielding questions about how the event — originally expected to draw 30,000 attendees — can go ahead given the uneven global rollout of vaccines, particularly in developing countries.
Throughout the pandemic, the world’s top diplomat has been beating the drum for ambitious climate action, calling for an end to fossil fuel subsidies and a phaseout of coal-fueled power generation in wealthy countries like Japan and South Korea by 2030, and globally by 2040.
Renewable energy costs have plummeted in recent years, and advances in technologies like battery storage mean green solutions are increasingly cost competitive.
But Guterres said policies tied to the fossil fuel-based economy are still standing in the way of the transition to clean energy.
He urged governments to tax CO2 emissions rather than income, and to end subsidies to fossil fuels.
“The economy is on our side, the technology is on our side. Sometimes government regulations and government strategies are not helping that to materialize,” he said.
Developing economies also need financial support to decarbonize their economies, and the industrialized nations that are responsible for most of the excess greenhouse gas accumulated in the atmosphere must deliver this support, Guterres said. That includes meeting a goal to transfer $100 billion each year to help poorer nations cut emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.
So far, climate aid has fallen shy of that goal, which was set in 2009. Estimates vary for what has been delivered, but a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development last year said that only $79 billion was transferred in 2018 — the highest annual transfer at that point.
A new target for climate finance will be discussed at COP26. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has estimated that an average of $3.5 trillion per year will be needed just in energy investments between 2016 and 2050 to achieve the 1.5-degree target.
Reporting by Valerie Volcovici in Washington and Kate Abnett in Brussels; Editing by Katy Daigle and Lisa Shumaker