President Biden invites 40 world leaders to virtual summit on climate crisis

On April 22nd – 23rd, President Joe Biden convened world leaders to ramp up new commitments to lower greenhouse gas emissions and step-up efforts to help developing countries tackle climate change.  

The climate summit was just the first in a series of meetings– including the G7 and G20 – ahead of the crucial UN climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland later this year. Under the Paris Agreement, countries are due to unveil updated emissions targets for the next decade.  

Some highlights from the two-day event: 

  • US made a pledge to cut emissions by 50- 52% by 2030 compared with 2005 levels. The new target does not match that of the UK and EU goal but is still among the strongest pledges to date. 
  • Japan set a new climate goal, promising to cut its emissions by 46 % in 2030. Previously, Japan committed to a 26% reduction which was criticised as insufficient as the world’s fifth largest emitter. 
  • China, the world’s largest carbon polluter said it would control the country’s coal-fired power plant construction over the next five years and phase down coal consumption in the five years from 2025 — but did not set a new emissions goal. 
  • India made no new commitments but re-confirmed the country’s vow to install 450 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2030. 
  • South Korea said it will end public financing of coal-fired power plants overseas and plans to unveil a stronger emissions reduction pledge. 
  • IEA reminded that carbon emissions are set to rise in 2021 despite rhetoric. 

On climate finance Biden pledged $5.7 billion a year by 2024, twice the amount provided under Barack Obama. But the new pledge made before the climate summit has disappointed environmentalists, who called for funds ranging from $8 billion to $800 billion through 2030. Meanwhile, other major economies at the summit were largely silent on funding.  

That doesn’t go far enough, “amounting to little more than a quarter of public climate finance in 2024,” said Joe Thwaites, an associate with the World Resources Institute’s Sustainable Finance Center. 

“This is insufficient to address the needs described by vulnerable countries today, and nowhere near the balance with mitigation finance called for in the Paris Agreement,” he said. 

Financial aid to vulnerable countries has underpinned the Paris Agreement. In 2009, wealthy nations pledged to collectively devote $100 billion annually to climate finance by 2020. This has yet to be fulfilled.  

“Developing countries often suffer the most devastating impact of climate change. Consequently, developed economies have a responsibility to support developing economies, to support them to mitigate and adapt to climate change,” said South African president Cyril Ramaphosa. 

Developing countries are the most impacted by climate change and the least able to afford its consequences. Without climate finance, they will continue to face extreme weather, water and food shortages, and climate-driven migration, which all threaten to reverse decades of progress in lifting people out of poverty according to the World Bank’s latest reports. 

Watch the full summit here: