World leaders pledge climate cooperation despite other riftsFriday, April 23, 2021
WASHINGTON, DC, United States (AP) — The leaders of Russia and China put aside their raw-worded disputes with US President Joe Biden on Thursday long enough to pledge international cooperation on cutting climate-wrecking coal and petroleum emissions in a live-streamed summit showcasing America's return to the fight against global warming.
Neither Vladimir Putin nor Xi Jinping immediately followed the United States and some of its developed allies in making specific new pledges to reduce damaging fossil fuel pollution during the first day of the two-day US-hosted summit. But climate advocates hoped the high-profile — if glitch-ridden — virtual gathering would kick-start new action by major polluters, paving the way for a November UN meeting in Glasgow, critical to drastically slowing climate change over the coming decade.
The entire world faces “a moment of peril” but also “a moment of opportunity”, Biden declared, speaking from a TV-style chrome-blue set for the virtual summit of 40 world leaders. Participants appeared one after the other onscreen for what appeared to be a mix of live and recorded addresses.
“The signs are unmistakable,” Biden said. “The science is undeniable. The cost of inaction keeps mounting.”
Jamaica's Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who was one of two Caribbean leaders invited to the summit, said there is a greater need for meaningful climate action, especially with the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“Jamaica is heartened that the United States has rejoined the Paris Agreement — an important expression of global solidarity for climate action,” said Holness.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has created a perfect storm...[for] small island developing states — the collapse of tourism, falling revenues, rising debt, limited access to vaccines and with disasters continuously threatening lives and our sustainability,” he added.
“We, like all small island developing states and many developing countries remain committed to advancing climate action and we are determined to build forward, stronger, better and greener. The world committed to US$100 billion per year to support climate action in developing countries. It is critical that this commitment will not only be honoured, but that the ambition be increased and major emitters should contribute more to its financing,” Prime Minister Holness said.
Biden's new US commitment, timed to the summit, would cut America's fossil fuel emissions as much as 52 per cent by 2030. It comes after four years of international withdrawal from the issue under former President Donald Trump, who mocked the science of climate change and pulled the US out of the landmark 2015 Paris climate accord.
Biden's Administration, this week, is sketching out a vision of a prosperous, clean-energy United States where factories churn out cutting-edge batteries and electric cars for export; line workers re-lay an efficient national electrical grid; and crews cap abandoned oil and gas rigs and coal mines.
But Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell dismissed the administration's plans as costly and ineffective.
“This is quite the one-two punch,” McConnell said in a Senate speech Thursday. “Toothless requests of our foreign adversaries... and maximum pain for American citizens.”
At the summit, Japan announced its own new 46 per cent emissions reduction target and South Korea said it would stop public financing of new coal-fired power plants, potentially an important step toward persuading China and other coal-reliant nations to curb building and funding of new ones as well.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, one of the leaders shown watching summit proceedings in the novel coronavirus pandemic's familiar Brady Bunch-style multibox conference screen, said his nation would up its fossil fuel pollution cuts from 30 per cent to at least 40 per cent.
China's Xi, whose country is the world's biggest emissions culprit, followed by the United States, spoke first among the other global figures. He made no reference to disputes over territorial claims, trade and other matters that had made it uncertain until Wednesday that he would even take part in the US summit. But, he said China would work with America in cutting emissions.
“To protect the environment is to protect productivity, and to boost the environment is to boost productivity. It's as simple as that,” Xi said.
Putin and his Government have been irate over Biden's characterisation of him as a “killer” for Russia's aggressive moves against its opponents, and he is under pressure this week over the declining health of jailed Opposition figure Alexei Navalny. But he made no mention of those disputes in his own climate remarks.
– Additional reporting by the Jamaica Observer
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