< Biden Opens Global Summit on Climate
By Susan Shand
22 April 2021

President Joe Biden met Thursday with world leaders to discuss efforts to fight climate change.

He told the group that the world faces serious danger but also opportunity. And, he said the costs of not stopping the problem were growing.

At the meeting, the leaders of China and Russia promised their countries would work to reduce coal and oil based emissions.

President Joe Biden speaks to the virtual Leaders Summit on Climate, from the East Room of the White House, Thursday, April 22, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Joe Biden speaks to the virtual Leaders Summit on Climate, from the East Room of the White House, Thursday, April 22, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Biden's own new commitment is to cut U.S. fossil fuel emissions up to 52 percent by 2030. His action marks a return by the U.S. to climate efforts after four years of withdrawal under President Donald Trump. Biden's administration wants to create a future United States where factories make batteries for export, the electricity grid is rebuilt and workers close up old-fashioned energy sources, like gas, oil and coal.

Japan, a heavy user of coal, announced its own new target of a 46 percent emissions decrease Thursday as the U.S. and its allies worked to build agreement at the meeting.

South Korea used the meeting to say it would stop investing money in coal-fired power plants. This is an important step that climate groups hope will help convince China and Japan to slow their own building and investing in coal power.

The coronavirus pandemic forced the meeting to play out as a livestream. It limited the chance for world leaders to talk and negotiate among themselves. The opening of the meeting had many technical problems.

The meeting was, however, an impressive gathering of the world's most powerful leaders speaking on the single cause of climate change.

China is the world's biggest emissions maker. Its president, Xi Jinping spoke first among the other world figures. He did not discuss non-climate arguments that had made it uncertain until Wednesday that he would even take part in the meeting. He said that China would work with America in cutting emissions.

"To protect the environment is to protect productivity, and to boost the environment is to boost productivity. It's as simple as that," Xi said.

Russia's leader, Vladimir Putin has been publicly angry since Biden called him a "killer" for Russia's aggressive moves against its critics. But he did not say anything about this in his own climate remarks.

He said Russia was very interested in gathering "international cooperation so as to look further for effective solutions to climate change as well as to all other vital challenges." Russia is often considered the world's fourth-biggest emitter of climate-damaging fossil fuel emissions.

The coronavirus pandemic made gathering world leaders for an in-person meeting too risky. White House staff built a small TV set in the East Room for Biden to use.

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris both spoke to the other leaders from separate areas before joining Secretary of State Antony Blinken and White House climate expert John Kerry at a table set up to watch fellow leaders' livestreamed speeches.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said "this is not bunny-hugging, this is about growth and jobs."

The Biden administration's promise would be the U.S.'s strongest climate effort ever. It increases the Obama administration's target reductions by nearly 100 percent.

The two-day meeting comes as scientists say that climate change is already worsening droughts, floods, hurricanes, wildfires and other disasters. It appears, they say, that humans are running out of time to stop the extreme weather conditions caused by climate change.

Biden administration officials, however, did not lay out a strong plan, including budgets and possible legislation. Instead, they talked of hopes and fears for the future.

Biden left for other duties during the first morning meeting, but returned to join the following meeting later. It discussed ways to help poorer countries remake and protect their economies from climate change.

Promises from the United States, Japan, Canada, the European Union and the United Kingdom, more than 50 percent of the world's economy, that plan to cut emissions are enough to keep the earth's climate from warming more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.

As of 2019, the U.S. had reduced its emissions by 13 percent since 2005. That happened mostly because costs to produce sun, wind and natural gas power dropped, said climate scientist Niklas Hohne of Climate Action Tracker

I'm Dan Friedell.

The Associated Press reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.

Words in This Story

opportunity – n. an amount of time or a situation in which something can be done

emissions – n. the act of producing or sending out something (such as energy or gas) from a source

battery – n. a device that is placed inside a machine (such as a clock, toy, or car) to supply it with electricity

boost – v. help or encouragement

vitaladj. extremely important

bunny-hugger n. someone who is pro-environmental concerns

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