On April 22 and 23, US President Joe Biden brought together 40 world leaders in a virtual Leaders’ Summit on Climate to rally the world in tackling the climate crisis. The US announced that it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by the end of decade, while other countries also announced more ambitious climate targets. Here is a summary of the two-day Leaders’ Summit on Climate 2021.

Biden began the Leader’s Summit on Climate by framing enhanced climate action as necessary both to address the climate crisis and to promote economic opportunity, including the creation of “good-paying, union jobs.” He went on to announce the US’s updated NDC under the Paris Agreement: that the country will halve its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

Other announcements made by countries during the summit include:

Session 2 addressed the urgent need to scale up climate finance, including both efforts to increase public finance for mitigation and adaptation in developing countries and efforts to catalyse trillions of dollars of private investment to support the transition to net zero emissions by 2050. Biden stressed the importance of developed countries mobilising $100 billion per year in public and private finance to support developing countries. He also announced that the US will seek to double funding, by 2024, for annual US public climate finance to developing countries, compared to the average level of the second half of the Obama-Biden Administration. This would include tripling public finance for adaptation by 2024. President Biden also called for an end to fossil fuel subsidies and announced that his administration will work to promote the measurement, disclosure and mitigation of material climate risks to the financial system. 

The participants of the sessions recognised the need for governments to embrace key policies, including meaningful carbon pricing, enhanced disclosure of climate-related risks and phasing out fossil fuel subsidies. 

Session 3 of the Leaders’ Summit on Climate discussed four topics for more focused consideration by government officials and where possible, a broader range of stakeholders. The session included:

Session 4 of the Leaders’ Summit on Climate explored the innovations needed to speed net-zero transitions around the world and highlighted the efforts of governments, the private sector and civil society in bringing new and improved technologies to market. The discussion underscored the urgent need for innovation: 45% of the emissions reductions needed for a swift net-zero transition must come from technologies that are not commercially available, according to the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, and Bill Gates urged investment to drive down “green premium” prices of most zero-carbon technologies compared with fossil fuel alternatives. 

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Several countries like Denmark, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Kenya, Norway and Singapore described their approaches to investing in mitigation and adaptation technologies. These included clean fuels such as hydrogen, renewables such as offshore wind and geothermal energy, energy storage, clean desalination, carbon capture, advanced mobility, sustainable urban design and monitoring technologies to verify emissions and stop deforestation. 

In this session, several countries made announcements: Denmark announced a technology mission to decarbonise the global shipping sector, in collaboration with the US, and that it will build the world’s first energy islands to produce clean fuels and supply power to Europe and the United Arab Emirates launched the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate in partnership with the US, Australia, Brazil, Denmark, Israel, Singapore and Uruguay. 

Session 5, the final session of the Leaders’ Summit on Climate, discussed the opportunities that ambitious climate action presents to countries around the world to create good, high quality jobs. Biden said that countries that prioritise policies that promote renewable energy deployment, electric vehicle manufacturing, methane abatement and building retrofits, among other actions, would likely reap the rewards of job growth and economic prosperity in the years ahead. Participants echoed these views and elaborated on their own projects and programs to maximise the economic benefits of their climate actions. Poland, a heavy coal user that has for many years vehemently defended its use, announced that they had just concluded negotiations with coal mine labor unions to ensure a just transition of workers as part of their coal-fired power phasedown. Biden concluded the session by emphasising that climate action “might represent the largest economic opportunity of this century,” urging leaders to stay focused. 

In between the sessions, several other speakers provided important perspectives. Youth speaker Xiye Bastida declared that climate justice is social justice, underlining that youth need to be a part of decision-making processes and called for a stop to fossil fuel subsidies and extraction. Current and future Conference of Parties Presidents Minister Carolina Schmidt (Chile) and MP Alok Sharma (UK) discussed the urgency of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. Pope Francis, who has been a climate leader for many years, underlined the need to “care for nature so that nature may care for us.” 

Featured image by: Flickr