The Leaders’ Climate Summit on Thursday, April 22, 2021 brought together over 40 world leaders to outline ambitious new actions that will steer the world to a 1.5C pathway.
According to observers, current climate targets, including announcements made on Thursday by the US, Japan, and Canada, fail to meet the level of ambition needed to avert climate catastrophe.
“This is simply not aligned with the science or based on their fair share,” they observed, adding:
“As emphasised by Bangladesh, Indonesia, and South Africa, developing countries need adequate finance to meet their climate and development goals with. This summit fell short on announcing any new and additional finance that substantially builds on existing financial pledges to drive momentum on climate action.”
With the US back in the international climate game, the summit reportedly opened an important space for reviving climate diplomacy that must set the tone for renewed efforts in the next months particularly on new and additional finance and finance for addressing Loss and Damage as a key pillar of action under the Paris Agreement.
Jean Su, Centre for Biological Diversity, Energy Justice Director, said: “President Biden’s pledge to cut domestic emissions 50-52% by 2030 falls woefully short of what’s necessary to meet the massive scale of the climate emergency. Solving the climate crisis requires applying both science and equity. The U.S. is the largest historic polluter and one of the wealthiest nations, and it must do its fair share and slash domestic emissions by at least 70% by 2030 and substantially finance the Global South’s decarbonisation to pay the balance of its hefty climate debt. Combating the climate emergency at home also requires transforming our economy by moving immediately to end the fossil fuel era and create a renewable and anti-racist energy system that advances justice first.”
Julie-Anne Richards, Executive Director, Climate Action Network Australia: “The Australian people are so disappointed that our Government came to this historic summit with pledges that are patently inadequate and promises to throw even more money to subsidise old industries like coal and gas. Australia faces worse droughts, worse fires, worse heat waves and the loss of the Great Barrier Reef if climate change is allowed to continue.
“Prime Minister Morrison could take advantage of Australia’s pre-eminent renewable resources, creating new industries and jobs and make a safe and prosperous Australia by putting in place a plan to reduce Australia’s emissions by two thirds in this decade. There are more chances this year, including the Glasgow COP in November, and we hope the Morrison Government will take them. Our future relies on it.”
Kimiko Hirata, International Director, Kiko Network, Representative, CAN Japan: “Japan has announced it will cut emissions by 46% below 2013 levels by 2030, and take on the challenge of reaching 50%. This is a significant step in the right direction, but still not sufficient to be Paris- 1.5˚C aligned. Japan needs to enhance the target further to the Paris compatible level, meaning 60% or more, in the lead up to the G7 and COP26. The announcement should certainly spur discussions on Japan’s coal phase-out. Japan is the only G7 country which doesn’t have a coal phase out vision. Since the EU, US, and UK have also increased their 2030 emissions targets, Japan needs to keep pace and exit from coal-fired electricity by no later than the end of this decade.”
Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Global Lead, WWF Climate & Energy: “The overriding quest by leaders attending this summit must be to catalyse efforts that keep the 1.5°C goal within reach. They must announce tangible actions that accelerate the transformational change needed to halve global emissions by 2030.
“We won’t meet this goal if we don’t unlock the political will needed to ensure a successful outcome at COP26, and put the elements on the table – like climate finance – necessary to implement plans. We are waiting anxiously for the world’s richest countries – including the United States – to lead by example with the greatest ambition, putting promises into action.
“After years of U.S. federal inaction to address its role in the climate crisis, today the Biden administration has presented all of us with significant reason for hope. This necessary and achievable goal is an important signal that the U.S. is ready to be a responsible partner on climate action with the global community.
“Bold action could also help mobilise a coalition of high-ambition nations, giving us a fighting chance of keeping global climate goals within reach during this consequential decade.”
Rachel Cleetus, Policy Director & Lead Economist, Climate and Energy Program, Union of Concerned Scientists: “Reducing U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases by 50 to 52 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 is a floor to build upon. Clear and compelling science tells us that deeper cuts are essential to stave off the worst climate impacts and ensure the world’s largest cumulative emitter of global warming pollution is doing its fair share. In addition to reducing emissions, the United States has a responsibility to deliver on funding for developing countries as they transition toward a clean energy future and cope with the impacts of climate change. Communities on the frontlines of worsening heatwaves, storms, flooding, wildfires and drought cannot afford anything less than an all-in effort.”
Wendel Trio, Director, Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe: “It is good to see World Leaders talking about the climate crisis again. But despite nice words all indications are still that we are heading towards a 2.5°C world and more action needs to be taken by all. European governments need to seize the opportunity of more countries engaging in the debate to revise and increase their contribution to global climate action. For the EU this means going well beyond 55% as real efforts to reach the Paris Agreement’s target of limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C will need reductions of at least 65%. Furthermore we need to see a substantial increase of climate finance commitments from rich European countries towards developing countries.”
Sören Ronge, European Coordinator, Protect Our Winters (POW) Europe: “At POW we love our outdoors, not only because they allow us to do the outdoor sports we love and for their natural beauty, but also for the important ecological services they provide to all humanity. Yet, in all mountain regions in the world glaciers are disappearing, snowpack’s shrinking and freshwater resources declining. Not being able to ski will be the least of our concerns when our winters are gone.
“We therefore expect European leaders at the Biden Climate Summit to lead the way on a new path, step up and commit to the big systemic changes we all need for a livable future. The EU’s new target of 55% is a step in the right direction, but science is clear – we need to cut emissions by 65% by 2030, along with substantial increases in climate finance. This means implementing tangible, concrete actions. Now. Globally.”
Agnes Hall, Global Campaigns Director at 350.org: “There can be no meaningful climate action if world leaders don’t make a decisive plan to keep all fossil fuels in the ground.. Talk of “net-zero” and emission reduction commitments won’t cut it: we demand more from our world leaders than false promises, false solutions and empty negotiations at Biden’s Climate Summit. The task now is to hold politicians to their lofty words, and to do that the global climate movement needs to keep up the pressure on our governments at home as well as on the international stage to take urgent action now to reduce carbon emissions and ensure a Just Recovery by creating a sustainable, fossil-free world.”
Asad Rehman COP26 UK Coalition: “Despite numerous statements by world leaders on the importance of tackling the climate emergency, current global commitments are predicted to lead to a warming of 3c with terrifying consequences. Emissions are set to continue to increase this year as govts direct trillions in Covid economic recovery plans to polluting industries. Solving the climate crisis and reducing emissions fairly requires more than empty promises by the world’s biggest polluters. It needs concrete plans backed by finance that set out their decarbonisation plans for 2030.
“Neither the UK nor the US can claim to be a real climate leader by making green pledges if they aren’t backed up by strong policies to transform their economies. Our studies show that the intended promises being made at the Summit are far from the scale of effort needed.
“All over the world citizens are calling on govts to change track and back policies that are good for the planet, can help fix the broken economy, deliver new green jobs and create a safer world. Leaders will be judged on their actions, not on their warm words.”
Brandon Wu, director of policy and campaigns at ActionAid USA: “The Biden administration’s new climate target to halve emissions by 2030 is more ambitious than any previous commitment by the US government. Yet it is still deeply insufficient to meet the realities of the climate crisis.
“ActionAid is calling on the US to commit to its ‘fair share’ of climate action – a 70% emissions cut by 2030, plus financial support so that developing countries can transition to greener economies and adapt and recover from the devastating impacts of climate change.
“As the world’s biggest historical emitter, the US has a responsibility to the most vulnerable nations on the frontlines of the climate crisis. The US has long been a barrier to stronger global climate action. For the Biden administration to turn this around and show real leadership, they must go much further on emission reductions and climate finance.”
Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director of Greenpeace International: “History has to be made at Biden’s Earth Day Summit. True climate leadership requires laws and regulations to phase out fossil fuels, end deforestation, and restore nature. Our survival depends on real climate action – voluntary net-zero targets and offsets are just delaying tactics.
“To get closer to the 1.5 pathway, significant political will and action are required. The world’s richest countries must do more than just halve their emissions by 2030, having profited from extractive and polluting industries leading to the climate crisis. It’s time for the wealthiest nations to repair the damage and show solidarity with vulnerable countries.
“The Net-Zero Banking Alliance is a very weak voluntary initiative. Among the flaws, targets don’t need to be aligned with 1.5C or cover off-balance sheet activities such as underwriting. Regulators have to step in to transform the banking sector from leading on greenwashing to leading on climate.”
Susann Scherbarth, climate justice campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe: “We welcome the US back to the climate table. Climate promises are rising like the sea, but what’s on the table is not enough, and global warming is still racing away, further damaging vulnerable communities.
“The EU’s claim to global climate leadership is looking tenuous – with commitments in the new EU climate law falling far short of delivering a fair share of climate action and of keeping fossil fuels in the ground. Europe will have to drastically step up emissions reductions and finance for poorer countries while discarding unrealistic distractions like carbon offsets and carbon capture.”
“President Biden’s commitment may seem ambitious for Washington, but it is sharply inadequate and deeply unjust for the billions living in the Global South. It stands in stark contrast to his expressed commitment to center environmental justice in his approach to government. Biden must go back to the drawing board and present a Nationally Determined Contribution in which the U.S. does its fair share to keep the world on a path to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius,” Karen Orenstein, Climate and Energy Programme Director at Friends of the Earth U.S.
“It is heartening to see the US back at the table on climate, and we welcome President Biden’s commitment to environmental justice and to a whole of government approach to the climate crisis. The US’ pledge to cut domestic emissions by 50% by 2030 is a first step in concrete climate action, but this target still falls short of what science says we need in order to meet the Paris Agreement commitment to limit warming to 1.5C.
“We need more ambitious commitments from the big emitters and more binding plans on climate finance, fossil fuel phase outs, and nature restoration which match the urgency of the crisis we face. Because while summits and fine speeches are nice, they are not enough to provide justice and protection to those communities already being affected first and worst by our addiction to carbon,” Steve Trent, Environmental Justice Foundation Executive Director.
“African leaders must do more than just be at the table of biodiversity and climate summits. We need them to be serious about tackling emissions at home and unequivocal about protecting their country’s natural biodiversity in order to tackle a climate crisis which has the continent seeing worse and worse extreme weather impacts every year. Protecting biodiversity at home means making hard decisions, such as banning new fossil fuel infrastructure and making sure local communities and Indigenous People are empowered to protect their ancestral lands.
“For non-African leaders at the summit, while our Presidents may push for financial support, because African countries are particularly attuned to the impacts of climate change which is perpetrated by the West, there can be no resilient green recovery without debt relief,” stated Melita Steele, Greenpeace Africa Programme Director.
“In his statement today, UN Secretary General Guterres highlighted the importance of developed countries raising finance for climate adaptation in developing countries. CARE underscores how vital this is, because we see how the most marginalised communities who have contributed least to the problem are already facing the most severe consequences. This and subsequent summits, such as the G7 and COP26, need to deliver new financial commitments as part of an urgently needed roadmap to deliver $50 billion from budget sources for climate adaptation,” disclosed Sven Harmeling, CARE International’s Global Policy Lead for Climate Change.
“It is great to see world leaders coming together for the purpose of declaring climate ambitions. But the world leaders seem to be stuck in the process of getting new and new commitments instead of actually changing the politics on the ground step by step. Russia is the only country from the Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia who has been invited to the Summit and needless to say, Russia does not have an ambitious climate policy. I hope more countries from the EECCA region are involved in such high-level events and that the focus of the events would turn from promises to results,” stated Olga Boiko, CAN EECCA Node Coordinator.
“The Leaders’ Summit must reflect the leadership that the world needs in terms of climate action. The leaders must be, by definition, representing their citizens and their needs and struggles. We need leaders who can overcome their differences and strive to create a fair, equitable and sustainable life for their people and for the world. The climate summit needs to push forward ambitious actions and narratives that can support communities mainly in the global south who are more vulnerable to climate change impacts,” said Fatima Ahouli, CAN Arab World Regional Coordinator.
“It’s good to see Canada driving up ambition and it’s not enough. The new target is not aligned with a 1.5oC compatible future – that would require a 60% emissions reduction goal. We hope to see Canada continue to ramp up ambition, both in future years and as NDC consultations occur in coming months on the road to Glasgow. Canada not only needs to improve its climate targets, but also pass strong legislation to meet those targets.
“Canada’s proposed Net-Zero Accountability Act, currently stalled in Parliament, must be strengthened as it contains more of a duty to report than a duty to achieve. As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau noted, Canada is an energy exporting nation and that is one of the country’s main barriers to climate ambition. Canada’s new NDC should address emissions from oil and gas production, ban fossil fuel subsidies, and enshrine Just Transition legislation,” stressed Catherine Abreu, Executive Director, Climate Action Network Canada.
“Young people around the world are watching the Leaders Climate Summit. What is currently on the table is not enough to stay below 1.5 degrees Celsius. We need deep, transformative, global action that centers frontline communities to adequately address the climate crisis. Otherwise, we will not have a future to look forward to. Climate change is happening now. Now, it is about managing impacts from the losses and damages the most vulnerable face, helping communities adapt, and bringing emissions down,” said Natalie Lucas, Executive Director, Care About Climate, USA.
“This proposed NDC doesn’t cut it. Real climate leadership looks like the U.S owning up to its historical responsibility for fueling the climate crisis and committing to do its Fair Share. That looks like bold, deep and real emissions cuts in the US and supporting countries around the world in responding to the climate crisis and transitioning off fossil fuels. It does not look like backing more polluter-driven schemes and false solutions like “net zero”. We are running out of time and we need real climate solutions now,” said Sriram Madhusoodanan, U.S. Climate Campaign Director, Corporate Accountability.
“President Biden’s new climate target demonstrates that he and his administration are serious about tackling the climate crisis – but the hard work is just beginning. While this new commitment is a positive step in the right direction and worth celebrating, more action is urgently needed to avert dangerous climate change impacts that are already disproportionately harming those who are most vulnerable, especially women and marginalised communities.
“The richest one percent of the world’s population are responsible for more than twice as much carbon pollution as the 3.1 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity. Yet it is the world’s poorest who are hit the hardest by the impacts of climate change. As the world’s richest country and largest historical emitter of greenhouse gases, the US owes it to the world’s most vulnerable to increase its emissions reductions target in order to prevent additional climate change impacts,” said Abby Maxman, President and CEO of Oxfam America.