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
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3:59 p.m. ET, April 22, 2021

Key takeaways from today's US-hosted climate change summit

President Biden joined dozens of world leaders today as part of a two-day virtual summit to address the global climate crisis.  

Here were some of the notable developments from the summit:

  • Global call to action: Biden asked world leaders to take action to combat climate change collectively as he announced an aggressive new goal for greenhouse gas emissions. Biden pointed to actions the US would take, an effort to reassert US leadership and put the US back to the center of the global effort to address the climate crisis after the Trump administration largely disengaged. “The signs are unmistakable, the science is undeniable that the cost of inaction, it just keeps mounting. The United States isn’t waiting. We are resolving to take action, not only our federal government, but our cities and our states all across our country, small businesses, large corporations, American workers in every field,” he said.
  • Cut emissions: Biden committed the United States to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 50%-52% below its 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. While the goals are a part of the Paris climate agreement that Biden rejoined upon taking office, they are non-binding and the administration has not rolled out a plan on how the US will meet them. 
  • More funds needed: Brazil's environment minister, Ricardo Salles, said Thursday that for Brazil to enforce its plan to reduce deforestation and carbon emissions by 2030 it will need more funds for resources. “Brazil presented to the United States, about a month ago, and at their request, an action plan so that in 12 months, if there are resources, it could move quickly towards reversing deforestation," Salles said in a news conference after President Jair Bolsonaro’s speech at the virtual summit to discuss climate issues convened by Biden.
  • Trying to make history: Europe wants to be “the first climate-neutral continent in the world,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said during Thursday's climate summit. “Yesterday, we agreed Europe's first-ever Climate Law with the European Parliament and our 27 governments. With this, we write into stone the goal set out by the European Green Deal – to make Europe climate-neutral by 2050,” von der Leyen said.
  • Celebrating Earth Day: As 40 world leaders convened for Biden's virtual climate summit, Pope Francis appealed for the world to “take care of the biodiversity, take care of nature” in a video message on Earth Day. Speaking in Spanish, Francis spoke about the Covid-19 pandemic and the impact on nature and climate change it had when the world “stopped.”  Both “global catastrophes” – climate change and Covid-19 — “demonstrate that we have no longer time to waste," he said.

3:03 p.m. ET, April 22, 2021

US climate envoy says Russian President Putin was "pretty rational" at climate summit 

From CNN's Allie Malloy

Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik/Kremlin Pool/AP
Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik/Kremlin Pool/AP

Special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry was complimentary of comments made by both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro at Thursday’s Climate Summit. However, he said the most important aspect is whether both countries follow through on their promises.

“Some of the comments that President Bolsonaro made today surprised me for they’re- that’s pretty good, that works, if you do those things. The question is will they do them? And the question is what’s the follow through and enforcement,” Kerry said.

On Putin, Kerry said he thought he was “pretty rational and put some decent visionary thoughts on things.”

Asked whether he plans to visit Russia or Brazil, Kerry said “at some point travel will be warranted” but said more negotiations on climate need to happen first.

Putin this morning said that Russia is “genuinely interested” in global cooperation.

“I think there’s room to hopefully have a discussion about this and we’ll see if we can find some common ground. I think that’s the most important summary of what I heard in terms of their comments today,” Kerry concluded.

2:34 p.m. ET, April 22, 2021

Climate envoy offers rebuttal to countries wary of US looking to reemerge as global climate leader

From CNN's Besty Klein

Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry offered a rebuttal to countries who may be wary of the US seeking to reemerge as a global leader on climate.

“In the course of the last month, first question out of people’s mouths was, ‘What are you guys going to do? You destroyed your credibility, left the Paris Agreement, how can we trust you? What’s going to happen in the next four years?’" he said in remarks from the White House briefing room Monday.

The answer, Kerry said, is that “no politician could change what is now happening globally in the marketplace,” going on to cite financial commitments toward the administration’s goal.

Kerry recalled signing the Paris Climate Accords five years ago today and lamented actions from the Trump administration pulling out of the historic agreement.

“Regrettably, without any facts, without any science, without any rationale that would be considered reasonable, the former president decided to pull out. He was the only president in the entire world the only chief of state in the entire world who, without any scientific evidence, decided to pull out of the Paris Agreement,” Kerry said.

That presented a challenge as Biden took office, Kerry said.

“We had to restore America’s credibility, we had to prove we were serious, and I think that today does that in many ways, and not in a chauvinistic – in a way that is sort of inappropriate to our relationship with other countries, but in a way that reinforces the fact that … we need to bring all the countries in the world to the table, we all need to raise ambition,” he said.

2:00 p.m. ET, April 22, 2021

Brazil will need more funds to reduce deforestation, environment minister says 

From CNN’s Rodrigo Pedroso in Sao Paulo

Sergio Lima/AFP/Getty Images
Sergio Lima/AFP/Getty Images

Brazil's environment minister, Ricardo Salles, said Thursday that for Brazil to enforce its plan to reduce deforestation and carbon emissions by 2030 it will need more funds for resources.

“Brazil presented to the United States, about a month ago, and at their request, an action plan so that in 12 months, if there are resources, it could move quickly towards reversing deforestation," Salles said in a news conference after President Jair Bolsonaro’s speech at the virtual summit to discuss climate issues convened by US President Biden.

"The resources would go to the economic part and the command and control part of the plan in which will participate Ibama (environmental agency) and Federal Police, in addition to teams from the National Force and logistics with the support of the Armed Forces. It is also necessary to count on the state police," he said.

Salles said the government budget for implementation of the plan will be presented next week and it will be higher than the current one.

"The president is going to double the resource, this is important because it gives support to the teams of the National Force, which can increase substantially," he said.

Bolsonaro’s new environment plan, according to Salles, has five axes and includes land regularization, payment of environmental services, bioeconomics, ecological-economic zoning, and increased inspection through the National Force, a police force that is not structured to fight environmental illegalities.

The environment ministry reaffirmed what Bolsonaro said during his speech at the US Climate Summit, that Brazil will eliminate illegal deforestation by 2030 and neutralize greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

2:05 p.m. ET, April 22, 2021

These groups are calling on Biden to promote natural gas as key player in reaching climate goals

From CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich

Al Drago/The New York Times/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Al Drago/The New York Times/Bloomberg/Getty Images

As US President Biden engages in a two-day virtual climate summit with world leaders, the fracking industry in Pennsylvania is reminding him of their importance to reach his climate goals. 

In a letter to the White House Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association, Pittsburgh Works, and the Marcellus Shale Coalition are calling on the administration to “promote policies reflecting the essential role American natural gas plays in this endeavor.” 

“The workers and local small businesses driving the economy and helping to build America back are essential to a low-carbon future which cannot be achieved without an affordable and reliable source of clean energy. Natural gas is, and should continue to be, the key to our country’s environmental progress,” the letter states.

In his first days in office, Biden ordered a moratorium on new oil and gas leases on federal land and water areas. However, the move was a far cry from the ban on fracking President Trump claimed Biden would initiate. Fracking – or the drilling for natural gas — supports an estimated 30,000 jobs in Pennsylvania, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Natural gas, along with solar and wind energy, is needed in order to advance climate and economic goals, according to the letter.

“Domestically, a clean, reliable and resilient power grid based on natural gas and renewable energy sources working together is the only technologically feasible way of affordably meeting your climate goals for a carbon-free electrical grid by 2035 and net-zero emissions by 2050,” the letter states.

 

1:30 p.m. ET, April 22, 2021

Go There: CNN answers key questions from Moscow about today's climate summit — and its international impact

Today is Earth Day, and 40 world leaders are meeting virtually to discuss climate issues in a summit convened by US President Biden. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping are two notable leaders attending the summit, underscoring the wide range of leaders attending. Many allies of the US are also in attendance, including French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The US is the world's second-biggest polluter behind China, which has said it will continue to increase carbon emissions through at least the end of the decade. 

CNN correspondent Fred Pleitgen reports on the latest from Moscow and answers questions about the summit.

Watch:

CNN's Kate Sullivan and Kevin Liptak contributed reporting to this post.

1:30 p.m. ET, April 22, 2021

Climate summit cannot be "politically correct green act of bunny hugging," UK prime minister says

From CNN’s Arnaud Siad

Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images
Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

The virtual climate summit hosted by US President Biden cannot be “some expensive politically correct green act of ‘bunny hugging’” and must be about “growth and jobs,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday.

Praising the UK’s efforts on reducing carbon emissions, Johnson said, “We were the first country to pass legislation for net zero. We have the biggest offshore wind capacity of any country in the world, the Saudi Arabia of wind as I never tire of saying. We’re halfway to net zero.”

“We have carbon emissions lower than at any point since the 19th century, we’re ending support for fossil fuels overseas and doubling our international climate finance. We’re actually speeding up because we see the obligations for developed countries to do more, we’re legislating to deliver 78% of the reductions needed to reach that goal by 2035,” he added.

“As host of COP26, we want to see similar ambitions around the world and we’re working with everybody, from the smallest nations to the biggest emitters to secure commitments that will keep change to within 1.5 degrees. (…) It’s going to mean the richest nations coming together and exceeding the $100 billion commitment that they already made in 2009 and I stress how important that is,” Johnson also said.

The UK will host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference in November 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland.

Johnson also thanked Biden “for returning the United States to the front rank of the fight against climate change.”

1:30 p.m. ET, April 22, 2021

UN climate summit president urges countries to explain "in detail" how they'll achieve climate targets

From CNN’s Arnaud Siad

Britain's President for COP26 Alok Sharma listens to a speech from the virtual US Leaders Summit on Climate in the Downing Street Briefing Room in London on April 22.
Britain's President for COP26 Alok Sharma listens to a speech from the virtual US Leaders Summit on Climate in the Downing Street Briefing Room in London on April 22. Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

Alok Sharma, the president of the UN COP26 climate summit, has urged nations to “come forward and explain” how they will achieve their targets on reducing net greenhouse gas emissions.  

"This is an issue for China, it’s an issue indeed for all countries to come forward and explain how, having set targets for the middle of the century, how we’re actually going to get there,” Sharma told CNN on Thursday. 

“It’s important that countries set out their plans in detail and that’s of course what we also want to see,” he added.

He said he was “absolutely delighted” to have US President Biden “leading from the front” on climate, adding that “the nationally determined contributions set out by the [US] President is a big step up and I think it’s a benchmark, it’s for others as well the big emitters, to have a look at and see what more they can do.”

Sharma said the world was “in a different place” to where it was about a year ago, adding, “The reality is that we’ve made progress in the last year. We now got 75% of the world economy covered by net-zero targets. But we need to do a lot more, in terms of near-term emission reduction targets and that’s what I’m looking for between now and COP26.”

The 26th UN Climate Change Conference will take place in November 2021, at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) in Glasgow, Scotland.

1:30 p.m. ET, April 22, 2021

Pope Francis warns "nature never forgives" in Earth Day message

From CNN's Lindsay Isaac

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

As 40 world leaders convene for US President Biden's virtual climate summit, Pope Francis appealed for the world to “take care of the biodiversity, take care of nature” in a video message on Earth Day.

Speaking in Spanish, Francis spoke about the Covid-19 pandemic and the impact on nature and climate change it had when the world “stopped.” 

Both “global catastrophes” – climate change and Covid-19 — “demonstrate that we have no longer time to waste."

“This shows us that the global nature needs our lives in the planet. It involved all of us, even if in many ways, different and unequivocal. And in this way, it teaches us even more on what we have to do to create a just planet, fair and safe from an environmental point of view. In brief, the Covid pandemic has taught us this interdependence, this sharing together the planet,” the Pope said.