President Joe Biden convenes world leaders at a “moment of peril” to combat the climate crisis, drawing commitments from China and Russia to cooperate on cutting emissions despite their disputes with US.

President Joe Biden speaks to the virtual Leaders Summit on Climate, from the East Room of the White House in Washington, US on April 22, 2021.
President Joe Biden speaks to the virtual Leaders Summit on Climate, from the East Room of the White House in Washington, US on April 22, 2021. (AP)

Declaring that the United States and other big economies must "get this done,” President Joe Biden has opened a global climate summit aimed at getting world leaders to dig deeper on emissions cuts. 

The United States pledged on Thursday to cut in half the amount of climate-wrecking coal and petroleum fumes it is pumping out.

His new commitment to cut US fossil fuel emissions up to 52 percent by 2030 marks a return by the US to global climate efforts after four years of withdrawal under President Donald Trump. 

That's a commitment Biden hopes will spur China and other big polluters to speed up efforts of their own.

“The cost of inaction keeps mounting. The United States isn’t waiting," said Biden.

Biden also promised to double climate aid for developing countries tackling the crisis by 2024.

'Decisive decade'

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris addressed the summit from separate lecterns before joining Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and White House climate envoy John Kerry at a horseshoe-shaped table set up around a giant potted plant to watch fellow leaders’ live streamed speeches.

Biden called this the “decisive decade" and said the richest economies “have to step up.”

The coronavirus pandemic compelled the summit to play out as a climate telethon-style livestream, limiting opportunities for spontaneous interaction and negotiation. 

World leaders including China’s President Xi Jinping, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel also addressed summit.

Speaking from their home countries, the world leaders pledged action to lower carbon emissions, although they differ on details.

The Pope

Pope Francis urged global leaders to act against climate change, adding that the adversity already created by climate change will push people toward innovation.

Francis said the coronavirus pandemic is bound to change people, adding that a person comes out better or worse after a crisis.   

"If we don't come out of it better, we will be on a path of self-destruction," he warned, making an appeal to global leaders to "to act with bravery."

Greta Thunberg blasts politicians

Environmental champion Greta Thunberg assailed powerful politicians for "ignoring" climate change, as she demanded an end to fossil fuel subsidies and implored the current generation of leaders to take the crisis more seriously.

Speaking at the climate summit, 18-year-old Thunberg warned that powerful interests and lawmakers were contributing to the "destruction" of living conditions around the globe.

"How long do you honestly believe people in power like you will get away with it?" the Swedish activist said via video link in a biting rebuke to a US House panel.

"How long do you think you can continue ignoring the climate crisis, the global aspect of equity and historic emissions without being held accountable?" she asked.

Saudi Arabia

The king of Saudi Arabia said his country is working on "producing 50 percent of the kingdom's energy by using clean renewable energy," as part of the Kingdom's so-called economic "Saudi Vision 2030."

King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud speaking at the Climate Summit added that "the crown prince announced two new initiatives, the Saudi Green Initiative and the Middle East Green initiative which aims at reducing carbon emissions in the region by more than 10 percent of global contributions."


"Now we are confident that together we will win this challenge," Italy's prime minister Mario Draghi said speaking via videoconference during a world leaders climate summit.

Draghi said that the world needs to "reverse course soon if nations want to deliver on the objective of the Paris agreement."

Italy's premier said the European Union's 750 billion euros fiscal plan designed to help Europe recover from the pandemic will support the environmental transition and make EU carbon-neutral by 2050.

Around 10 percent of the plan's budget, Draghi said, "roughly 70 billion euros, will go in investment in green infrastructure, circular economy and sustainable mobility in Italy only."

He pledged to take the safeguard of the planet as one of the main objectives of Italy's programme during its 2021 G20 Presidency.


British Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomed the US' new commitment to halve emissions as a “game-changing” announcement. 

Johnson will be hosting the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow later this year.

As host of COP-26, Johnson said Thursday at President Joe Biden’s climate summit he wanted to see “similar ambitions” around the world.

Johnson says, “I think we can do it. To do it we need scientists in all of our countries to work together to produce the technological solutions that humanity is going to need."

He says the developed world will have to find more resources to support developing countries' move to a greener future. He says, “It’s going to mean the richest nations coming together and exceeding the $100 billion commitment they already made in 2009."

Johnson stressed the economic dividend that could emerge from efforts to tackle climate change.


Chinese President Xi Jinping, 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 non-climate disputes that had made it uncertain until Wednesday that he would even take part in the US summit, and 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.


Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said that Japan was ready to reduce its carbon emissions" by 46 percent in the fiscal year 2030"  to help in the battle against climate change.

Suga told the summit that the response to global climate crisis can become a "driving force" for economic development.

"Response to climate change is no longer a constraint on our economy. Rather it will be the driving force of the longterm, dynamic growth, not only of Japan, but also the whole world," he said.


German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed Biden's climate pledge and said she was "delighted" at the return of US leadership on the issue.

"The US national goal also expresses commitment, that's a very important signal to the whole global community," Merkel said.

Merkel said the world depends on the US' contribution to achieve global greenhouse gas reduction targets.

"We are facing a global Herculean task. After all, it is about nothing more and nothing less than the transformation of our entire way of life and our economy", Merkel said. 

"And this is a challenge for all major emitters, especially, of course, the industrialised countries."


Russian President Vladimir Putin called for international cooperation to tackle climate change at the summit.

"Russia is genuinely interested in galvanising international cooperation so as to look further for effective solutions to climate change as well as to all other vital challenges," Putin said in his speech.

Moscow is ready to offer a number of joint projects and consider preferences for foreign companies willing to invest in clean technologies, including those in Russia, the Russian leader added.

The Russian leader said that he had tasked the government to "significantly cut the accumulated volume of net emissions" by 2050 in Russia, refraining from naming a concrete goal. 

According to Putin, since 1990 Russia has managed to cut greenhouse gas emissions almost in half — from 3.1 billion to 1.6 billion tons of CO2 equivalent.

South Korea

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said his country will no longer finance the construction of coal power plants in other nations as he promises stronger contributions to international efforts to curb global warming.

Moon said his country will provide a more ambitious target for reducing carbon emissions by the end of the year. 

South Korea in December had announced a 2030 target to cut its carbon emissions by 24.4 percent from the country’s 2017 level.

South Korea has faced international criticism for its continued investment in coal plants in other countries even as it pushes to phase out coal power at home.

Moon’s office says his pledge doesn’t affect South Korea’s participation in ongoing projects to build two new coal plants in Indonesia and another one in Vietnam.


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the global climate summit that Canada will make deeper cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

The new target is to cut those emissions by 40-45 percent below 2005 levels, Trudeau said, upping the previous goal of 30 percent under the Paris climate accord.

"We must take action now. Because there's no vaccine against a polluted planet," Trudeau said

He said his government will enshrine this new goal in a law as Canada works to become carbon neutral by 2050.

As it presented a budget Monday the government had already raised Canada's emissions reduction target to 36 percent below 2005 levels.

In his speech Trudeau said Canada had adopted one of the strictest carbon taxes in the world. It will go from $50 per ton of CO2 — the main greenhouse gas — to $170 a ton by 2030.

European Union

Europe will apply emissions trading to buildings and transport, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the summit of world leaders, setting the stage for the EU's planned overhaul of its carbon market.

"We will make emission trading work not only for energy generation and industry, but also for transport and for buildings," von der Leyen told a virtual climate change summit hosted by the US government. 

United Nations

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres says the world is “at the verge of the abyss” because of climate change and must take aggressive steps to avoid catastrophe.

Speaking at Thursday's summit, Guterres called for world leaders to build a global coalition for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 — “every country, every region, every city, every company and every industry.″

Guterres says countries around the world must put a price on carbon, end subsidies for fossil fuels, ramp up investments in renewable energy and green infrastructure and stop the financing of coal and the building of new coal power plants.

He calls for advanced countries to phase out coal by 2030, with other countries phasing it out by 2040.


Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro shifted his tone on preservation of the Amazon rainforest at the summit, exhibiting willingness to step up commitment even as many critics continue doubting his credibility.

Bolsonaro said he agrees with Biden's “call for the establishment of ambitious commitments.” 

Brazil's leader says he is “determined that our climate neutrality will be reached by 2050.”

Bolsonaro also said he would double the amount of money for environmental authorities’ oversight.

It's unclear how that reconciles with immediate spending, as the 2021 budget outlook for the environment ministry is the lowest for any year this century.


French President Emmanuel Macron also said the world needs to factor the environment into the costs of investment and trade and that without that there could be no transition to a greener economy.

"Taking action for the climate means regulating, and regulating at an international level. If we don’t set a price for carbon, there will be no transition," Macron told a virtual global climate summit hosted by US President Joe Biden.


India’s prime minister said he and Biden are launching an Indo-US climate and clean energy agenda for 2030 partnership that will mobilise investments, demonstrate clean technology and enable green collaboration.

Narendra Modi told world leaders at a virtual summit called by Biden on Thursday that India is doing its part and its renewable energy target of 450 gigawatts by 2030 shows its commitment to clean energy. India also has taken several bold steps in promoting clean energy, energy efficiency, afforestation and biodiversity.

Modi says India has taken the lead in multilateral initiatives, such as the International Solar Alliance and the coalition of disaster resilient infrastructure.

Modi says India’s per capita carbon footprint was 60 percent lower than the global average because of its lifestyle, which is still rooted in sustainable traditional practices.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies