Biden hosts global climate change summit on Earth Day

By Melissa Mahtani, Meg Wagner and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 9:35 PM ET, Thu April 22, 2021
4 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
7:46 a.m. ET, April 22, 2021

Today's summit will be a different type of gathering due to the pandemic

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

Known to favor a back-slap and handshake style, President Biden will be limited to a computer screen as he seeks to restore American credibility on the world stage while also convincing fellow leaders to make bold pledges to stave off global warming.

Officials said the logistics of a virtual summit made pull-asides or individual bilateral meetings difficult to organize, and Biden has found previous virtual meetings with foreign leaders somewhat stilted.

This week's meeting is the largest virtual summit of world leaders to be convened over the past pandemic-altered year.

When he begins traveling abroad, potentially as soon as June, Biden is expected to continue pressing on climate issues leading up to a major summit in Scotland in November.

The urgency of the matter was underscored this week in a new report from the International Energy Agency, which estimated carbon emissions from energy use are on track to spike by 1.5 billion tons in 2021 as heavy coal consumption in Asia – China, in particular – outweigh rapid growth in renewable sources.

That would be the second largest annual increase in energy-related emissions in history.

7:42 a.m. ET, April 22, 2021

Biden is expected to commit the US to as much as 52% reduction in greenhouse gasses

From CNN’s Kevin Liptak

President Biden will commit the United States to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 52% as he convenes world leaders for a climate summit on Thursday.

The new target, long anticipated as a signal of the new president’s commitment to fighting climate change, will actually be a range: a 50%-52% cut of 2005 emissions levels by 2030.

Officials said Biden and his team arrived at the final number in a meeting at the White House on Wednesday morning.

The figures were struck after lengthy consultations with government agencies, scientists, industry representatives, governors, mayors and environmental researchers.

What the President will not unveil, at least right now, is a specific road map for how the United States will reach those targets, which are being described as “economy-wide.” Officials described “multiple pathways” for the US to arrive at the goal, and said the President’s climate task force would release sector-by-sector recommendations later this year on achieving the necessary cuts.

“Achieving that target is something we can do in multiple ways,” a senior administration official said a day ahead of the announcement.

 “In the coming months you will continue to see from the administration a focus on driving forward the necessary actions that unlock the jobs opportunity that tacking the climate crisis presents,” the official said. 

Indeed, Biden is expected to focus heavily on the potential economic boon that fighting climate change could present. His critics have described attempts to move the country away from fossil fuel as job-killers. But Biden hopes to highlight the opportunities that would come along with overhauling technology to make it cleaner.

“There is only one playbook that works in this moment and that playbook is you chase after the economic opportunity that tacking the climate crisis presents and we’re doing that,” the official said. 

Officials said they conducted a “techno-economic” analysis across various sectors — including electricity, transportation, buildings, industry, lands and oceans — to identify various pathways for reducing emissions in each one. That included the potential for new standards and incentives that would limit greenhouse gasses.

 Read more about the announcement here.

7:33 a.m. ET, April 22, 2021

Biden has made climate a key focus. Here's what the White House has done so far on the topic.

From CNN's Rachel Janfaza

In December 2020, before officially taking office, President Biden announced his climate team. It was a historic display of the then-President-elect's effort to prioritize his administration's response to the climate crisis.

"I'm pleased to announce a team that will lead my administration's ambitious plan to address the existential threat of our time, climate change," Biden said at the time.

On his first day in office, Biden took executive actions to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord, cancel the Keystone XL pipeline and direct agencies to review and reverse more than 100 Trump actions on the environment.

Just a week later, Biden signed several more executive actions related to the climate crisis, including one directing the secretary of the interior to pause on entering into new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or offshore waters.

Since the early days of his administration, Biden and other administration officials have emphasized that the White House is taking a "whole of government" approach to climate change.

They've also underscored that they believe the President's actions will help spur job growth, and categorize people working in industries vulnerable to job loss, such as coal miners, under their umbrella of environmental justice.

"It's about coming to the moment to deal with this maximum threat that we exist with as now facing us, climate change, with a greater sense of urgency," he said at a January signing ceremony. "In my view, we've already waited too long to deal with this climate crisis. We can't wait any longer."

7:28 a.m. ET, April 22, 2021

Russia's Vladimir Putin and China's Xi Jinping confirmed their attendance at today's climate summit

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed they are attending the US-hosted two-day virtual summit on climate.

The White House said a total of 40 world leaders were invited to the conference, which will be live streamed to the public.

"President Biden took action his first day in office to return the United States to the Paris Agreement. Days later, on January 27, he announced that he would soon convene a leaders summit to galvanize efforts by the major economies to tackle the climate crisis," the White House said in a statement.

"The Leaders Summit on Climate will underscore the urgency — and the economic benefits — of stronger climate action. It will be a key milestone on the road to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) this November in Glasgow," it continued.

On the campaign trail, Biden made climate change a central issue, setting a goal of ensuring that the US achieves net-zero emissions by 2050. He signed several executive actions his first week in office related to the climate crisis, including one directing the secretary of the interior to pause on entering into new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or offshore waters.

The President and other administration officials have emphasized that the White House is taking a "whole of government" approach to climate change. They've also underscored that they believe the President's actions will help spur job growth, and categorize people working in industries vulnerable to job loss, such as coal miners, under their umbrella of environmental justice.

The event marks the first time since former President Barack Obama left office that the US has taken the lead on climate change issues. President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the Paris Climate Accord and was often publicly skeptical that global warming was a real phenomenon.