WASHINGTON—Officials from the U.S. and other nations are spending the final day of a global climate summit focused on innovation, as they debate how to deploy technology and economic incentives to achieve the emission-reduction goals laid out by world leaders.
President Biden used the first day of the summit to unveil a new target that calls for cutting U.S. emissions 50% to 52% from 2005 levels—a common baseline for such climate targets—by 2030. China said it would reduce coal consumption, and several other countries pledged to cut future emissions and expand their use of renewable energy.
“The world’s largest market in history is opening before our own eyes right now and it’s going to create millions of high-quality, good-paying jobs around the world, especially in countries that seize that agenda,”
the Biden administration’s special climate envoy, said at the start of Friday’s session, touting what he called the economic opportunity of low-carbon energy development.
The climate summit is aimed at jump-starting global efforts to reduce emissions as part of the Paris agreement, which calls on countries to ratchet up their climate commitments every five years. The deal relies largely on international pressure, rather than legally binding enforcement mechanisms, to persuade countries to make deep emissions cuts.
After appearances on the first day by leaders of many of the wealthiest and most populous nations, Friday’s speaking roster includes the heads of 10 more countries, including Denmark, Israel, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and Poland. The U.S. lineup for Friday’s session includes Energy Secretary
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and U.S. Trade Representative
The day’s first session focuses on technological innovation by governments and the private sector. The second discussion will make the case for the economic benefits of reducing emissions, and will include appearances by Mr. Biden and the heads of several U.S. energy companies and labor unions.
Biden administration officials have sought to emphasize potential benefits that could result from reducing emissions and shifting toward low-carbon energy sources, a bid to counter concerns by many countries about the costs of reshaping their economies.
“No one is being asked for a sacrifice,” Mr. Kerry said Friday. “This is an opportunity.”
World leaders announced a series of climate-related programs Friday. Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said Denmark will build the world’s first “energy islands” to produce low-carbon electricity through wind power. The United Arab Emirates said it would launch a research and development program to lower emissions in the agriculture sector.
“Climate change is not a temporary concern, it is rather a global challenge that is ongoing,” U.A.E. Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum said. “We must unite our efforts to safeguard the planet for future generations or else risk paying heavier costs in the future.”
The U.S. is working in partnership with the U.A.E. on the program, and it will analyze new technologies and techniques to boost sustainable agriculture and raise money to fund them. U.A.E. and U.S. leaders at the summit didn’t say how much money they would put behind it, but funding is expected to be committed later this year.
Scientists and activists say that without major action this decade from the U.S., China, the European Union, India and other top emitters, countries won’t be able to meet the Paris agreement’s goal of keeping average global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. Temperature increases above that threshold could be devastating for some ecosystems and could result in rising seas that flood major cities, among other risks, according to the United Nations.
Fatih Birol, the executive director of the International Energy Agency, said countries must follow through on their pledges in order to meet the goals of the Paris agreement. “I will be blunt. Commitments alone are not enough. We need real change in the real world. Right now, the data does not match the rhetoric,” he said at the summit. “The gap is getting wider and wider.”
said Thursday that China would reduce coal consumption starting in 2026. Mr. Xi’s promise offered a peak but not an end to China’s coal consumption and didn’t meet the expectations of climate campaigners who were hoping for a more ambitious emissions-reduction timetable.
Instead, Mr. Xi reiterated the timetable he had already set forth for China reaching peak carbon emissions before 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality—net-zero carbon-dioxide emissions—by 2060.
China, the world’s No. 1 emitter, and many developing nations say they shouldn’t shoulder the same responsibilities as developed countries to combat climate change, arguing that wealthy nations were allowed to release greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere unchecked for decades while they industrialized.
While U.S. industries are already making the transition to a lower-carbon future, Mr. Biden’s emissions-reduction target would require companies in everything from energy to transportation to agriculture to greatly speed the pace of change. Academics, business consultants and others who study U.S. emissions say that meeting Mr. Biden’s targets would require significant changes in two key areas: how the U.S. generates electricity and how it powers its cars and trucks.
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS
How do you think the Biden administration should approach climate policy? Join the conversation below.
In 2019, the most recent year for which complete data are available, U.S. emissions were about 13% below 2005 levels, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Emissions last year were projected to be down 21% from that 2005 baseline, due in part to a slowdown related to the Covid-19 pandemic. But this year, emissions are tracking higher again as the economy recovers.
Republicans say Mr. Biden’s climate policies will result in job losses in the fossil fuel industry. A task force set up by Mr. Biden to address those concerns released a report Friday identifying $38 billion in existing federal funding to help coal, oil, natural gas and power plant workers. Among the recommendations in the report: grants for regional workforce development programs to prepare workers for jobs in new industries.
Political analysts say Mr. Biden and climate activists risk losing domestic political support for addressing climate change without this type of action to help regions dependent on fossil-fuel businesses.
A new report from the White House Council of Economic Advisers says the federal government has failed to adopt a cogent strategy, as most of its trading partners have, to encourage innovation and support workers. Without it, many of them, especially communities that are already poor, will be hurt both by a decline in jobs in high-carbon industries and too few new clean-energy jobs to replace them.
The report compares the need to address climate change with the effort in the 1960s to put a man on the moon. It recommends a wide expansion of government-funded research and development for clean-energy technology, which it says hasn’t yet been “developed nor implemented on the scale needed to stabilize global temperatures.”
Write to Timothy Puko at email@example.com
Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8