Key takeaways from the Biden Earth Day summit

Reuters

Posted at Apr 23 2021 05:50 AM

Key takeaways from the Biden Earth Day summit 1
Members of the White Rebels gesture towards cow manure that has been dumped outside the White House on Earth Day by the Extinction Rebellion in protest against President Biden's climate plan in Washington, U.S., April 22, 2021. Evelyn Hockstein, Reuters

WASHINGTON—Dozens of world leaders joined CEOs, activists and Pope Francis for a two-day virtual summit on reducing climate change hosted by U.S. President Joe Biden, starting Thursday. Here's the key news so far:

THE US GALLOPS OUT OF THE GATE

The United States met global expectations by pledging to halve its emissions by 2030 from 2005 levels – nearly doubling the last pledge made under former President Barack Obama.

Washington also intends to double its annual public climate finance to developing countries by 2024, compared with the average spend under Obama in 2013-2016.

"This is the decade we must make decisions that will avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis," Biden said at the White House. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen pledged a day earlier to aggressively tackle climate change using all the tools at her disposal.

CHINA TO QUIT COAL

President Xi Jinping told the summit his country would begin phasing out coal use over the 2026-2030 period as part of its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Last year, Xi had said China would aim to become carbon neutral by 2060.

"We will strictly control coal-fired power generation projects," Xi said through the summit’s video link. He suggested that China's coal consumption, by far the highest in the world, will reach a peak in 2025 and start to fall thereafter.

SOUTH KOREA TO STOP FUNDING COAL OVERSEAS

President Moon Jae-in said South Korea would end all new financing for overseas coal projects and will soon set a more ambitious schedule for slashing carbon emissions, making official parts of a "Green New Deal" proposed by Moon’s ruling party last year.

BRAZIL CHANGES ITS TONE

Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro appeared to shift his position on environmental protection, pledging Brazil would reach climate neutrality by 2050 - 10 years earlier than previously pledged. He also repeated a promise made last week to end illegal deforestation by 2030.

"With this spirit of collective responsibility and common destiny, I invite you once again to support us in this mission," Bolsonaro told the summit. Deforestation has soared under Bolsonaro, hitting a 12-year high in 2020 with an area 14 times the size of New York City destroyed.

A DIRE GLOBAL WARNING

As world leaders sped through speeches at the summit, a new report warned that the global economy could lose nearly a fifth of its economic output by 2050 if climate change continues unchecked and average temperatures rise 3.2 degrees Celsius beyond pre-industrial temperatures.

"Economies in Asia would be hardest hit, with China at risk of losing nearly 24% of its GDP in a severe scenario, while the world's biggest economy, the US, stands to lose close to 10%, and Europe almost 11%," the Swiss Re Institute report found.

(Reporting by Valerie Vocovici, Jeff Mason, Josh Smith, Andrea Shalal, Michael Shields Editing by Katy Daigle, Heather Timmons and Frances Kerry)

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