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What they're saying at the global climate summit

AFP logo AFP 4/22/2021 AFP
Joe Biden holding a sign: US President Joe Biden pledged to slash emissions blamed for climate change 50 to 52 percent by 2030 compared with 2005 levels © Brendan Smialowski US President Joe Biden pledged to slash emissions blamed for climate change 50 to 52 percent by 2030 compared with 2005 levels

World leaders gathered virtually Thursday for an international climate summit convened by US President Joe Biden, in which they vowed to meet or ramp up their goals to reduce emissions and slow global warming.

a group of colorful graffiti: The United States hosted a global summit in which several nations pledged to uphold or expand their commitments to help limit climate change © Brendan Smialowski The United States hosted a global summit in which several nations pledged to uphold or expand their commitments to help limit climate change

Here is what the main players said -- and the pledges they made or reiterated -- on the summit's opening day.

The interview has been lightly edited.

- United States -

Host US made the biggest headlines when Biden ramped up his nation's commitment to cut greenhouse gases, saying the world's top economy will slash emissions blamed for climate change 50 to 52 percent by 2030 compared with 2005 levels.

"We have to step up," Biden said, warning of the costs of inaction. "We have to take action -- all of us."

The president, seeking to urge emerging economies into action on addressing the climate emergency, also said that by 2024 Washington will double its annual public financing commitments to developing countries.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) attends by videolink a global climate summit hosted by the United States © Alexey DRUZHININ Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) attends by videolink a global climate summit hosted by the United States

During his address Biden expressed intent "to tap the economic opportunity that climate change presents our workers and our communities."

- China -

President Xi Jinping reiterated his pledge that China -- by far the world's largest emitter -- would reach carbon neutrality "before 2060."

"China has committed to move from carbon peak to carbon neutrality in a much shorter time span than what might take many developed countries, and that requires extraordinarily hard efforts from China," Xi said.

He said China would "strictly control coal-fired power generation projects (and) strictly limit the increase of coal consumption," phasing it down in coming years.

Xi also spoke of the "harmony between man and nature," and the need for greater responsibility for future generations.

"We must treat nature as our root: Respect it, protect it and follow its laws."

- Russia -

Like Beijing, Moscow is experiencing high tensions with Biden's administration, but Russian President Vladimir Putin participated in the summit, where he committed his country to fulfilling its obligations to combat climate change.

Putin said the world's fourth largest greenhouse gas emitter had set out to "significantly limit" net emissions by 2050.

"Despite Russia's size, its geography, climate and the structure of its economy, I am sure this task is achievable," Putin added.

Russia has witnessed severe weather changes in recent years, including record heat waves that are contributing to flooding and forest fires in Siberia, and a historic decline of summer ice over parts of the Arctic.

- Europe -

One day before the summit, Europe effectively set in stone its commitment to make the continent climate neutral by 2050, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen told the world leaders.

She added that there is agreement to reduce European greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 percent by 2030.

"This will be the make-or-break decade for our climate," von der Leyen said as she warned that the world was getting "dangerously close" to the 1.5 degrees Celsius global warming limit imposed by the Paris agreement.

"Science tells us it's not too late yet, but we must hurry up."

- India -

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, speaking from the world's most polluted capital city New Delhi, failed to announce new targets.

But he promised a "partnership" with Biden to mobilize green investment and urged a greater "lifestyle change" to fight climate change.

"We in India are doing our part," Modi said, pointing to his country's ambitious renewable energy target of 450 gigavolts by 2030.

He also noted that India's per capita carbon footprint is 60 percent lower than the global average because many Indians remain "rooted in sustainable traditional practices."

- Brazil -

South America's largest nation joined other summit attendees in aiming for carbon neutrality by 2050, a full decade earlier than previously targeted.

President Jair Bolsonaro also recommitted to the country's 2015 pledge to "eliminate illegal deforestation in Brazil by 2030."

"As the home of the planet's greatest biodiversity and as an agri-environmental powerhouse, Brazil is at the very forefront of efforts to tackle global warming," Bolsonaro said.

- South Korea -

President Moon Jae-in announced his nation would no longer fund coal-powered plants overseas after pouring billions of dollars into such dirty projects in Asia.

"It is imperative for the world to slow down coal-fired power plants, although developing countries that will struggle due to the heavy dependence on coal should be given due consideration and proper support," he told the summit.

Moon also said Asia's fourth largest economy was committed to going carbon neutral by 2050 and would "aim to enhance" its goals by 2030.

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