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Biden opens global climate summit with emissions pledge, plea to act


WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden pledged on Thursday to cut US greenhouse gas emissions in half by the end of the decade as he opened an online summit of 40 world leaders on climate change.

“Scientists tell us that this is the decisive decade. This is the decade we must make decisions that will avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis’’, Biden said.

The two-day meeting is aimed at rallying major economies to set more ambitious carbon-slashing goals and is seen as important preparation ahead of the UN climate conference in Glasgow in November.

Biden said the US would do its part to help solve the “existential crisis of our time” by cutting emissions by 50 per cent by 2030compared to 2005 levels.

Chinese President Xi Jinping will join the video conference, in what is seen as a goodwill gesture after a rocky start to Beijing’s relationship with the new administration in Washington.

China is the world’s biggest emitter of carbon dioxide gases, followed by the US, India and Russia, according to the International Energy Agency, a Paris-based group.

Biden’s emissions pledge doubles the promise made by former US president Barack Obama, but gives the current administration five more years to meet its goal.

In 2015, the US had committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 per cent by 2025, compared to 2005 levels, as a contribution to the global Paris Agreement.

One of Biden’s first acts in office was to return his country to the 2015 climate accord, which his predecessor, Donald Trump, had pulled from.

The White House outlined several paths to help meet the 2030 goal, including cutting tailpipe emissions, boosting vehicle efficiency standards, and investing in transportation infrastructure and new technologies.

Another priority is to focus on heavy cuts to emissions of methane — a major contributor to global warming.

Biden had previously announced the goal of reaching “100 per cent carbon pollution-free electricity by 2035” and a net-zero US emissions economy by no later than 2050.

On Wednesday, the European Union officially committed to at least a 55-per-cent reduction in emissions by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.

European Commission Vice- President Frans Timmermans welcomed Biden’s pledge, calling it a “great sign of US commitment to climate action and a welcome boost to global momentum’’, in a tweet.

Britain, meanwhile, said it is aiming by 2035 to reduce emissions by at least 78 per cent below 1990 levels.

At the summit, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said combating climate change was not about “bunny hugging” but about “growth and jobs’’, and urged other nations to “do more.”

Other world leaders scheduled to participate at the summit include Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The two-day feature breakout sessions with business and political leaders, along with government ministers in charge of shaping climate policy. The sessions include topics like security challenges,innovation and economic opportunities of climate action.

Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide said on Thursday his country will now aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 46 per cent from 2013 levels by 2030. Previously, Japan’s plan had called for a reduction of only 26 per cent.

Suga announced in October that Japan wants to be carbon-neutral by 2050, saying global warming is no longer an obstacle to economic growth.

More than 120 countries have made net zero commitments to date,covering 65 per cent of global carbon emissions.

— dpa

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