Biden kicks off climate summit with focus on emission cuts

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AP

Washington

Saying the United States and other big economies “have to get this done,” President Joe Biden opened a global climate summit on Thursday aimed at getting world leaders to dig deeper on emissions cuts. The United States pledged to cut in half the amount of climate-wrecking coal and petroleum fumes it is pumping out.

“Meeting this moment is about more than preserving our planet,” Biden declared, speaking from a TV-style set for a virtual summit of 40 world leaders. “It’s about providing a better future for all of us,” he said, calling it “a moment of peril but a moment of opportunity.”

“The signs are unmistakable. The science is undeniable. The cost of inaction keeps mounting,” he added.

Biden’s administration is sketching out a vision of a prosperous, clean-energy United States where factories churn out cutting-edge batteries for export, line workers re-lay an efficient national electrical grid and crews cap abandoned oil and gas rigs and coal mines.

His commitment to cut US fossil fuel emissions up to 52% by 2030 marks a return by the US to global climate efforts after four years of withdrawal under President Donald Trump. Japan, a heavy user of coal, announced its own new 46% emissions reduction target Thursday before the summit opened as the US and its allies sought to build momentum.

The Biden administration’s pledge would require by far the most ambitious US climate effort ever, nearly doubling the reductions that the Obama administration had committed to in the landmark 2015 Paris climate accord.

The new urgency comes as scientists say that climate change caused by coal plants, car engines and other fossil fuel use is already worsening droughts, floods, hurricanes, wildfires and other disasters and that humans are running out of time to stave off most catastrophic extremes of global
warming.

But administration officials, in previewing the new target, disclosed aspirations and vignettes rather than specific plans, budget lines or legislative proposals for getting there.

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris opened the Earth Day summit from the White House East Room before world leaders, including those from China, Russia, India, Gulf oil states, European and Asian allies and island and coastal nations already struggling against the effects of climate change. Pope Francis was also due to take part.

Biden planned to join a second session of the livestreamed summit later in the morning on financing poorer countries’ efforts to remake and protect their economies against global warming.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the summit was playing out as a climate telethon-style livestream, limiting opportunities for spontaneous interaction and negotiation. The effort opened with a technological glitch — an echo in Harris’s and Biden’s remarks that was soon fixed.