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Biden urges world leaders to 'recommit' to climate action ahead of COP28

Highlights

Russia-Ukraine war complicated US clean energy plans

Biden urges leaders to set 1.5 degree-aligned targets for 2030

US contributes another $1 billion to Green Climate Fund

  • Author
  • Jasmin Melvin
  • Editor
  • James Bambino
  • Commodity
  • Electric Power Energy Transition Shipping
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  • United States
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  • Energy Transition

US President Joe Biden April 20 called on world leaders to help bridge the gap between climate pledges and policies, even as geopolitical conflict has strained ambitions to cut back on oil and gas production.

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Russia's invasion of Ukraine catapulted energy security to the forefront of the world stage, at times to the detriment of climate goals as attention turned to avoiding fuel supply shortages and soaring energy prices.

US plans to accelerate decarbonization efforts and a wholesale shift to clean energy have had to cede some ground to energy security and affordability considering the upheaval of energy trade flows. Russia's actions that roiled global oil markets also thrust US oil and gas producers into a starring role as reliable global energy suppliers. This complicated Biden's vision for a sector that he pledged to transition away from by halting subsidies as well as leasing and permitting approvals.

But Biden asserted that the US remained on track for a 50%-52% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and continued to align with goals to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

He urged world leaders to come to the 28th UN Climate Change Conference, which starts Nov. 30 in Dubai, equipped with 2030 targets and action plans also aimed at constraining global warming to 1.5 degrees.

"It seems to me we have to recommit ourselves to action while we still have the time. ... We have to step up our ambitions," Biden told the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate during a virtual summit.

Collective action

Constraining temperature rise to 1.7 degrees Celsius remains a possibility under the targets and commitments established globally to date, according to the International Energy Agency, but policies presently in place continue to leave the world on a path to 2.5 degrees of warming. And the window for decisive action is narrowing rapidly, according to the IEA.

The summit, convened for a fourth time by Biden, brought together economies that account for roughly 80% of global GDP and global GHG emissions to provide an update on progress towards meeting their nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement and facilitate joint efforts to combat climate change.

Biden made a plea for the leaders attending to help scale up climate finance to support developing nations that contributed least to climate change but are being hit worst by its impacts.

On that front, he announced a $1 billion contribution to the Green Climate Fund, bringing the US total to $2 billion, as part of a broader effort to quadruple US climate support for developing countries to more than $11 billion a year by 2024. And Biden asked other countries to join him in putting pressure on multilateral development banks, including the World Bank, to step up their role in the climate fight and increase lending for climate projects.

Biden also sought support from other leaders at the summit to accelerate progress through collective action on decarbonizing energy, ending deforestation, reducing non-carbon GHG emissions and improving carbon management.

"With the right commitment and follow through from every nation in this room and on this call, the goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees can stay within reach but it's going to take all of us," Biden said.

Decarbonizing power, transport

He touted US actions, including enactment of the Inflation Reduction Act and bipartisan infrastructure law which made unprecedented investments to scale up offshore wind, advanced nuclear, clean hydrogen and other green technologies to achieve carbon-free power by 2035. He pointed to the aggressive push underway to electrify the US transportation sector as well, but also pressed world leaders to match ambitions with actions.

"As we gear up for COP28, I encourage all of you to join us in our collective goal to ensure that at least 50% of new passenger cars and 30% of trucks will be zero emissions by 2030," Biden said.

The Biden administration is also working to boost global support for the International Maritime Organization's decarbonization goals for the shipping sector. The IMO in July is slated to adopt a revised GHG strategy, with a goal of zero emissions from international shipping by 2050.

Reducing emissions

Biden also touted the more than $20 billion investment the US is making in methane mitigation to cap orphaned wells and plug leaks in the oil and gas system. That effort is expected to reduce US methane emissions to 87% below 2005 levels.

Biden noted that 150 countries have joined the Global Methane Pledge that seeks to cut methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030. But he invited other leaders to also "join us in the methane finance spirit to raise at least $200 million by COP28 to help developing countries mitigate their own methane emissions."

The Biden administration is also working on advancing direct air capture and other technologies to address carbon emissions that cannot be avoided and the carbon already in the atmosphere.

Investments in carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) and carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technologies, Biden said, would "lower the price of climate technologies for countries around the world as well by as much as 50% in some cases."

He urged leaders at the summit to participate in a new Carbon Management Challenge, with an eye on garnering a strong pipeline of critical CCUS and CDR projects internationally that can be unveiled at COP28.