Biden and world leaders push climate action, promise methane cuts


WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden on Friday attempted to define global next steps against rapidly worsening climate change with a small group of other world leaders and announced a new US-EU pledge to reduce methane leaks harmful to the climate.

Scientists’ ever darker findings this year that the world is approaching the point where the level of climate damage from the burning of oil, gas and coal becomes catastrophic and irreversible “represent a code red for humanity”, said Biden said at the start of the session.

“We have to act and we have to act now,” Biden said, speaking to a specially erected set at the White House that showed virtual arrays of solar panels in the background and a wall of other world leaders listening to music. screens.

Biden, during the public opening of the otherwise private talks, hailed a new U.S. deal with the European Union to cut methane emissions from the two entities by 30% by the end of this decade. Methane, the main component of natural gas, is one of the most potent agents of climate damage, gushing by the ton from countless uncovered oil and gas platforms, leaky gas pipelines and other oil and gas facilities. .

Biden spoke of the “damage and destruction” he saw in the United States, massive flooding in Europe and other global damage from global warming. He cited his trips earlier this month to California, where firefighters tackle larger, more violent and deadly wildfires almost year-round as temperatures rise and drought worsens, and in the Northeastern United States and the Gulf Coast, where Hurricane Ida and its flooding claimed dozens of lives, as natural disasters increase in number and severity with climate change.

As Biden spoke on Friday, California firefighters attempted to stop the fires reach ancient groves of sequoias thousands of years old and the height of skyscrapers.

The White House presented Friday’s meeting as a chance for some of the world’s leaders to strategize to achieve large and rapid reductions in climate-destroying oil and coal emissions. The administration is also trying to restore the United States Major Economies Forum – a climate group created by former President Barack Obama and revived by Biden – as an important forum for international climate negotiations.

Friday’s meeting followed a much larger and more vibrant White House virtual climate summit in April that saw dozens of government leaders – representing allies and rivals, and large and small. savings – making radical speeches on the need to act on climate change.

Friday’s list of attendees only included a dozen leaders: those from Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, the European Commission, the European Council, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, United Kingdom and United Nations.

China, India and Russia, along with the United States, are the countries that emit the most climate-damaging gases from the production and combustion of oil, natural gas, and coal.

There was no word on the involvement of their leaders. However, the White House said in a statement that Biden had tasked his climate envoy, John Kerry, to then lead a ministerial-level climate session with China, Germany, India and Russia. He gave no other immediate details.

Climate advocates have stressed the importance of the United States’ coordination with Europe and Asia for a united front to lobby China, which emits more climate-damaging fumes than the rest of the developed world combined. , to accelerate the reduction of its use of dirty combustion coal. – thermal power stations in particular.

Fred Krupp, chairman of the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund, said reducing methane pollution is the fastest and most effective strategy to slow the rate of warming. A 30% reduction in methane pollution should only be “the entry point of this critical conversation.” Many countries can and should aim even higher, ”he said.

While methane is about 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, it only stays in the air for about a decade, meaning that reducing methane emissions allows for faster climate action.

The engagement between the United States and the EU comes as the United States Environmental Protection Agency prepares to propose stricter rules against methane emissions for the oil and gas sector, as outlined in the one of Biden’s earliest decrees.

The new rules, expected in the next two weeks, are likely to be stricter than an Obama-era standard established in 2016. The Obama standard was reinstated in June after Congress took the unusual step of invalidate a rollback of Trump-era methane protections. .

The EPA’s pending rule is expected to restrict methane emissions from new and existing wells, including hundreds of thousands of older wells that are not federally regulated under current law.

Biden has sought to re-establish the United States as a leader in global climate efforts after President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris climate agreement. Biden pledged at the April summit to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 to 52 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. Achieving this pledge depends largely on the adoption of a $ 3.5 trillion budget bill that includes tax incentives and other policies to dramatically cut fossil fuels. pollution of fuels by the electricity sector. Democratic-only legislation faces an uphill battle in Congress.

Biden is also working to secure large investments in climate-friendly measures such as electric vehicle charging stations outside of Congress, amid objections from Republicans and some Democrats.

Friday’s session will be followed by another closed-door session of 35 to 40 world leaders, which will be hosted Monday morning by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The private sessions aim to ensure that world leaders travel to a United Nations climate session in November with pledges of important new actions to slow climate change. Biden and others see the Glasgow climate summit as a last chance for the world to commit to cutting fossil fuel use fast enough to avoid worst-case scenarios of global warming.

“We need to bring our highest ambitions to Glasgow,” Biden said. “Those who have not yet done so, time is running out.”


Knickmeyer reported from Oklahoma City.

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