WASHINGTON – President Biden announced on Friday that the United States and Europe have pledged to work to reduce global methane emissions by a third over the next decade and urged other countries to join their efforts to combat a powerful greenhouse gas that warms the planet.
In a virtual meeting hosted by the White House that included nine heads of state, the presidents of the European Council and the European Commission, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and ministers from a handful of other countries, Biden called the methane target an “ambitious but realistic goal” that the United States will help developing countries achieve.
The effort comes less than two months before a United Nations climate change summit in Glasgow, Scotland, where all nations are expected to announce more ambitious efforts over the next decade to reduce emissions resulting primarily from the burning of fossil fuels. Scientists say the world must move away sharply from oil, gas and coal or suffer catastrophic impacts from climate change.
“I have to tell you the consequences of inaction,” Biden said. “Over the past two weeks, I have traveled across the United States to witness the damage and destruction caused by record hurricanes, record flooding and wildfires,” which he noted s ‘worsen due to warming temperatures.
Nodding to the cascade of disasters that have occurred in recent months around the world, from flooding in Germany and Belgium to raging fires in Australia and Russia and a record temperature of 118 degrees Fahrenheit recorded in the Arctic Circle, M Biden told executives, “We don’t have a lot of time.
But observers noted the absence on Friday of some key leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping.
China sent Xie Zhenhua, the country’s climate envoy. But after Mr Biden announced a new military pact with Australia and Britain as a strategic deterrent against China, experts said Mr Xi’s absence on Friday was a worrying sign. that tensions between Washington and Beijing could undermine climate cooperation.
“It’s problematic,” said Robert N. Stavins, an environmental economist at Harvard University who closely follows international climate negotiations.
He added, “We have moved from cooperation during the Obama years to confrontation – on trade, democracy in Hong Kong, security in the South China Sea and intellectual property. “
China and the United States are the two biggest climate polluters in the world, in that order. Mr Biden has pledged to cut US emissions 50 to 52 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. Achieving that goal, however, depends largely on passing a US budget bill. 3.5 trillion dollars that faces headwinds in Congress.
China, meanwhile, has pledged to achieve net zero emissions by 2060, but has so far not announced new emission reduction targets over the next decade.
“Unless China commits next month to peaking its global emissions by 2025, it risks being isolated as Glasgow approaches, and perhaps held responsible if global negotiations fail.” , said Paul Bledsoe, strategic advisor at the Progressive Policy Institute. .
Brazil, another major transmitter, did not participate, according to the White House.
Participants included leaders from Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico and Great Britain. The Presidents of the EU Council and Commission were present and India, Russia and Germany sent envoys.
John Kerry, Biden’s climate envoy, and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken also attended the meeting.
In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency is currently preparing strict new regulations for the oil and gas sector, which is the largest industrial source of the pollutant.
Carbon dioxide makes up most of the greenhouse gases in the United States and stays in the atmosphere for centuries. Methane only lasts in the atmosphere for about a decade, but during this time it is much more powerful at warming the Earth.
“Reducing methane pollution is the fastest and most effective strategy we have to slow the rate of warming. The benefits will be almost immediate, ”said Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, in a statement.
Adam Bernstein, managing director of North Sky Capital, a cleantech investment firm, called the global goal “doable”.
“There is no real technological leap to be taken. The technology exists today, it’s just a matter of putting in place national and local policies to support this goal, ”he said.