BRUSSELS – President Biden teamed up with leaders of the world’s richest nations on Sunday to take action to lower global temperatures, but was unable to set a firm end date for burning coal, which is a major contributor to global warming.
Mr Biden and six other leaders of the Group of 7 Nations pledged to cut collective emissions in half by 2030 and try to curb the rapid extinction of animals and plants, calling this an “equally important existential threat”. They agreed that by next year they would cut international funding for any coal project that lacked technology to capture and store carbon emissions, and pledged to achieve an “overwhelmingly decarbonized” power sector by the end of the decade.
It was the first time that the major industrialized countries, most responsible for the pollution that is warming the planet, agreed to collectively reduce their emissions by 2030, despite several nations individually setting the same goals, including the United States and the United States Kingdom.
However, energy experts said the failure of the G7 countries, which collectively cause about a quarter of the world’s climate pollution, to agree on a specific end date for using coal has weakened their ability to rely on China to create its own, Use to stem the coal that is still growing. It could also be more difficult convincing 200 nations to sign a bold climate deal at a United Nations summit in Scotland later this year.
G7 leaders also declined to pledge significant new funds to help developing countries both cope with climate change and move away from burning oil, gas and coal.
“It’s very disappointing,” said Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International. “This was a moment when the G7 could have shown historic leadership and instead left a massive void.”
Scientists have warned that the world must urgently reduce emissions if it has a chance to keep global average temperatures above 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels. This is the threshold at which experts say the planet will suffer catastrophic, irreversible damage. The temperature change isn’t even around the globe; some regions have already reached an increase of 2 degrees Celsius.
Mr Biden opened his first overseas tour as President last week by stating that “America is back” on issues such as climate. After four years of President Donald J. Trump mocking the established science of climate change, discouraging clean energy development, favoring fossil fuels and refusing to work with allies on environmental issues, Mr Biden was once again part of a unanimous consensus that the world must take drastic measures to prevent a global catastrophe.
“President Biden is committed to addressing the climate crisis at home and abroad, gathering the rest of the world at the Summit of Heads of State or Government, G7, and beyond to achieve bold goals within the next decade,” said Daleep Singh, Deputy National Security Advisor. “While the previous government ignored science and the consequences of climate change, our government has taken unprecedented steps to prioritize this on the global stage.”
In addition to re-entering the 2015 Paris Agreement, which Trump abandoned, Mr Biden has pledged to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 50 to 52 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, and to eliminate fossil fuel emissions from the American electricity sector by 2035.
But it was the UK, along with a few other European countries, that during the summit that year had aggressively urged to stop burning coal by a certain date in the 2030s. Burning coal is the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions, and after pulling back in pandemic year, coal demand is expected to grow 4.5 percent this year, according to the International Energy Agency.
Instead, the final language of the heads of state and government’s “communiqué” is a vague request to “rapidly expand” technologies and policies that further accelerate the transition from coal without carbon capture technology.
The debate at the summit about how soon to give up coal came at a particularly sensitive time for Mr Biden, whose push for a major infrastructure package in a tightly-divided Congress could potentially depend on the vote of a Democratic senator: Joe Manchin of the Coal dependent West Virginia.
In a statement to the New York Times, Mr. Manchin noted “projections that show fossil fuels, including coal, will be part of the global energy mix in the coming decades,” praising the Biden administration for recognizing the need for clean energy technologies develop . However, advocates of faster action said concerns about appeasing Mr Manchin appeared to have prevented more aggressive moves.
June 11, 2021 at 1:24 p.m. ET
“Once again, Joe Manchin casts a heavy shadow,” says Alden Meyer, Senior Associate at E3G, a European think tank for environmental issues.
In this decade, the United States in particular has the chance to use strong words to lead countries to turn away from fossil fuels, said Morgan of Greenpeace. But “it doesn’t look like they were the ambitions for this G7.”
Other leading climate change advocates and diplomats called the entire climate package a mixed bag.
Mr Biden and the other leaders said they would allocate $ 2 billion to help nations move away from fossil fuels. And they agreed to increase their contributions and meet the overdue pledge to mobilize $ 100 billion annually to help poorer countries cut emissions and cope with the effects of climate change, even though fixed dollar numbers were not on the table.
Laurence Tubiana, CEO of the European Climate Foundation, who served as France’s main climate ambassador during the 2015 Paris negotiations, said she was delighted that nations would stop funding new coal projects without technology to capture and store emissions. This will put an end to virtually all new coal funding as carbon capture technology is still emerging and not widely used.
“This means that China can now decide whether it wants to continue to be the supporters of coal worldwide because they will be the only ones,” she said. However, the financing package is missing for developing countries, which are particularly vulnerable to floods, droughts and other effects of a climate crisis caused by the industrialized nations.
The G7 countries this week also backed Mr Biden’s comprehensive infrastructure plan to counter China’s multi-trillion-dollar belt and road initiative. As part of this, countries have pledged to help developing countries rebuild from the Covid-19 pandemic while taking climate change into account.
In 2009, wealthy nations agreed to mobilize $ 100 billion in public and private funds by 2020 to help poorer countries transition to clean energy and adapt to the worst effects of climate change. However, they only delivered about $ 80 billion on that pledge, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. And most of that money is in the form of loans rather than grants, making it difficult for poor countries to use, experts said.
“The G7’s announcement on climate finance is really peanuts in the face of an existential catastrophe,” said Pakistani Climate Minister Malik Amin Aslam. He called it a “big disappointment” for his country and others who had to spend more to cope with extreme weather conditions, displacement and other effects of global warming.
“At least the countries that are responsible for this inevitable crisis must meet their declared obligations, otherwise the climate negotiations could end in vain,” he warned.
A recent report from the International Energy Agency concluded that major economies must immediately stop approving new coal-fired power plants and oil and gas fields if the world is to stave off the most devastating effects of global warming.
At the summit, the seven countries addressed the loss of biodiversity and described it as a crisis on the same scale as climate change.
They said they would campaign for a global push to conserve at least 30 percent of the planet’s land and water area by 2030 and would put such protections in place in their own countries. Scientists say and the G7 are repeating these measures to help curb extinction, ensure water and food security, store carbon, and reduce the risk of future pandemics.
Today, according to the United Nations, around 17 percent of the earth’s land area and 8 percent of the oceans are protected.
Environmental associations welcomed the acceptance of the 30 percent commitment, but emphasized the need for action, which requires adequate funding. That is the difficult part to be worked out at a separate United Nations biodiversity conference in Kunming, China, in October.
Since the remaining intact ecosystems and biodiversity hotspots of the world are unevenly distributed, scientists emphasize that it is not enough for each country to filter out its own 30 percent. Rather, countries should work together to maximize the protection of the areas that achieve the best results in reversing interdependent biodiversity and climate crises. Researchers have mapped proposals.
The rights of local communities, including indigenous peoples who have done better to promote biodiversity, must be valued, proponents said. Conservation does not mean throwing people out, but making sure that wild areas are used sustainably.
Robert Watson, former chairman of two leading intergovernmental bodies on climate change and biodiversity, praised the agreement to link the two crises. But he said it had to address the factors that drive species loss, including agriculture, logging, and mining.
“I don’t see what action is being taken to stop the causes,” said Dr. Watson.