Biden hosts global climate change summit on Earth Day

By Melissa Mahtani, Meg Wagner and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 0135 GMT (0935 HKT) April 23, 2021
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1:30 p.m. ET, April 22, 2021

UN climate summit president urges countries to explain "in detail" how they'll achieve climate targets

From CNN’s Arnaud Siad

Britain's President for COP26 Alok Sharma listens to a speech from the virtual US Leaders Summit on Climate in the Downing Street Briefing Room in London on April 22.
Britain's President for COP26 Alok Sharma listens to a speech from the virtual US Leaders Summit on Climate in the Downing Street Briefing Room in London on April 22. Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

Alok Sharma, the president of the UN COP26 climate summit, has urged nations to “come forward and explain” how they will achieve their targets on reducing net greenhouse gas emissions.  

"This is an issue for China, it’s an issue indeed for all countries to come forward and explain how, having set targets for the middle of the century, how we’re actually going to get there,” Sharma told CNN on Thursday. 

“It’s important that countries set out their plans in detail and that’s of course what we also want to see,” he added.

He said he was “absolutely delighted” to have US President Biden “leading from the front” on climate, adding that “the nationally determined contributions set out by the [US] President is a big step up and I think it’s a benchmark, it’s for others as well the big emitters, to have a look at and see what more they can do.”

Sharma said the world was “in a different place” to where it was about a year ago, adding, “The reality is that we’ve made progress in the last year. We now got 75% of the world economy covered by net-zero targets. But we need to do a lot more, in terms of near-term emission reduction targets and that’s what I’m looking for between now and COP26.”

The 26th UN Climate Change Conference will take place in November 2021, at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) in Glasgow, Scotland.

1:30 p.m. ET, April 22, 2021

Pope Francis warns "nature never forgives" in Earth Day message

From CNN's Lindsay Isaac

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

As 40 world leaders convene for US President Biden's virtual climate summit, Pope Francis appealed for the world to “take care of the biodiversity, take care of nature” in a video message on Earth Day.

Speaking in Spanish, Francis spoke about the Covid-19 pandemic and the impact on nature and climate change it had when the world “stopped.” 

Both “global catastrophes” – climate change and Covid-19 — “demonstrate that we have no longer time to waste."

“This shows us that the global nature needs our lives in the planet. It involved all of us, even if in many ways, different and unequivocal. And in this way, it teaches us even more on what we have to do to create a just planet, fair and safe from an environmental point of view. In brief, the Covid pandemic has taught us this interdependence, this sharing together the planet,” the Pope said.


12:50 p.m. ET, April 22, 2021

Italy says world must "act now" on climate, "not to regret it later"

From CNN’s Hada Messia and Arnaud Siad

US State Department
US State Department

The world “needs to reverse course” on climate as actions taken since the Paris agreement have “proven insufficient,” Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Thursday.

“In the Paris agreement, we pledged to limit global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels. But the actions we have taken since have proven insufficient. Under current policies, we are set to achieve 3 degrees of global warming. We need to reverse course, and do it soon," Draghi said while speaking at the Global Leaders Summit hosted by US President Biden on the occasion of Earth Day.

“Italy is my own country, it is a beautiful but fragile country. The fight against climate change is a fight for our history and our landscapes,” he added. 

With Italy holding the current presidency of the G20, which accounts for 75% of global emissions, Draghi said the group has a “special responsibility” to “deliver on the objectives of the Paris Agreement.”

“We want to act now, not to regret it later,” he said.

“The Italian presidency has proposed to hold a joint Climate and Energy Ministerial Meeting. A strong resolve by the G20 will also boost the chances for a successful COP26 Conference in Glasgow,” he added. 

The 26th UN Climate Change Conference is scheduled to take place in Nov. 2021, at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) in Glasgow, Scotland. 

Draghi also thanked President Biden for his “leadership” in hosting the summit.

“Now we are confident that together we will win this challenge,” he said.


11:54 a.m. ET, April 22, 2021

Here's how the US treasury secretary made the economic case for global cooperation on climate change

From CNN's Betsy Klein

US State Department
US State Department

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen built off President Biden’s remarks on finance as key to combating climate change as she addressed world leaders Thursday.

“We need a sprinting start now if we wish to achieve our goal of net-zero emissions by mid-century. President Biden has recommitted the United States in its part to tackle this crisis and marshal the full capacity of the US government. As Treasury Secretary, I understand that finance – public and private – is crucial to enable countries to accelerate their progress,” she said.

Yellen cited “two questions that keep me up at night,” including how nations can reduce emissions by supporting economic development and responding to other challenges like Covid-19.

The second question, she said, is how should governments target public sector climate finance to mobilize private sector investments, noting that “past efforts to support private investment have not achieved anywhere near the scale needed to green the global economy."

She vowed that her department “will focus the full range of our tools and expertise to work with you in producing concrete and innovative answers to these questions.”

She outlined key items in the President’s discretionary funding request to address this, including $1.2 billion request for the green climate fund, $485 million in funding to support multilateral climate initiatives, and increased support for multilateral development banks.

Yellen said the US Treasury will work to facilitate investment in projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions via technical assistance to counterparts in other countries. The US is also working with the G20 on a sustainable finance working group to establish a sustainable finance roadmap for investors, she said.

She again called for a global partnership in meeting the moment.

“We will only achieve our goal of curtailing climate change through collective action. Today, we, as a global community, need to be ambitious, set goals, work together, and sprint toward a cleaner, safer, better future. We look forward to meeting this challenge together,” she concluded.

1:30 p.m. ET, April 22, 2021

Biden’s climate change summit a "game changer," says policy organization chief

From CNN's Robert North

US President Biden’s summit today could be a game changer for climate change, according to the Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said, an influential international policy organization.

José Ángel Gurría told CNN that “it’s completely turning the expectations around, and now with the United States leading the charge rather than holding everything back, this is the big game changer, and with China joining in, we have the second largest emitter of CO2, then that will really change the game.” 

Speaking to CNN International's Julia Chatterley on First Move, Angel Gurría stressed the need “to convince the leaders, convince ourselves, that this is the single most important priority that we have in the long term, but the long term starts today.”

He also addressed the Covid-19 crisis, saying the world is underfunding the fight against the virus. Angel Gurría said “it would be “a tragedy if we actually had the availability of the vaccines, and we did not have enough funding to be able to provide them to the least developed countries in the world.”


11:49 a.m. ET, April 22, 2021

Europe wants to be first climate-neutral continent in the world, EU Commission President says

From CNN’s Arnaud Siad

US State Department
US State Department

Europe wants to be “the first climate-neutral continent in the world,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said during Thursday's climate summit.

“Yesterday, we agreed Europe's first ever Climate Law with the European Parliament and our 27 governments. With this, we write into stone the goal set out by the European Green Deal – to make Europe climate-neutral by 2050,” von der Leyen said.

On Wednesday, the EU announced its target of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels, as part of its Climate Law. Von der Leyen announced that the Commission would table proposals in June to make Europe “fit for 55.”

“We will make emission trading work – not only for energy generation and industry – but also for transport and for buildings. Carbon must have its price – because nature cannot pay the price any longer,” she said.

She also praised US President Biden for hosting the climate Summit.

“It is so good to have the US back on our side in the fight against climate change. Together, we can go faster and get further. Together, we will win the future,” she said.

11:35 a.m. ET, April 22, 2021

US Climate envoy: "Governments alone cannot possibly find all the necessary investment" for net-zero economy

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry said the creation of a net-zero economy will require a strong public-private partnership, noting that “governments alone cannot possibly find all the necessary investment” to meet the task of a net-zero carbon future. 

“Creating a net-zero economy and doing it as rapidly as possible is an enormous challenge,” Kerry said in remarks at the opening of the second session of the Leaders’ Climate Summit hosted by the White House Thursday.

“It will require mobilizing finance at an absolutely unprecedented level, and it will require governments to help facilitate the net-zero transition around the world, and to help … the vulnerable countries, the people who just don't have the finance or the technology or the ability to do this,” he said.

“Given the magnitude of this challenge, however, governments alone cannot possibly find all the necessary investment,” Kerry added. “There’s no government in the world that has enough … in their budgets to be able to provide what we need to make this transition.”

“Ultimately, how governments, international financial institutions and private providers of capital work together is really going to determine the outcome of this challenge,” Kerry said.


11:38 a.m. ET, April 22, 2021

US President Biden makes the economic case for global cooperation on climate change

From CNN's Betsy Klein

Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

In his second set of remarks at the climate summit, President Biden outlined the case for global cooperation in the fight against climate change through an economic lens.

Much like the first portion of the virtual summit, there were technical issues at the top, with Biden’s remarks echoing as he spoke for the first four minutes of a six-minute speech. 

“Every nation has responsibility, and every nation is at risk… Instability and displacement in one country can have ripple effects that are felt throughout regions and across the world. Taking on climate change together is more than just the right thing to do, it’s also in everyone’s best interest to do it. Meeting this challenge is going to require mobilizing financing at an unprecedented scale,” he said, pointing to investment from the private sector.

Governments, he said, need to lead in "making sure that real material climate risks to financial systems are measured, disclosed and mitigated.” The response, he added, is “about international security, regional stability, food security, and gender and racial equality.”

Mobilizing against the threat of climate change, Biden told the world leaders, is “an investment that’s going to pay significant dividends.”

As part of the Biden administration’s commitment to have the US lead on this issue, he announced the US will double its annual public climate financing development to developing countries by 2024. The US also intends to triple public financing for climate application in developing countries by 2024. 

He noted the Development Finance Corporation is also committing to net zero emissions in its investment portfolio by 2040, and has increased climate focused investments to 33% of all new investments beginning in 2023, which, Biden said, is “the earliest of any country.”

Biden reiterated the “urgency” of the moment as he concluded. 

“Good ideas and good intentions aren't good enough. We need to ensure that the financing will be there, both public and private, to meet the moment on climate change and to help us seize the opportunity for good jobs, strong economies, and a more secure world,” he said.

11:40 a.m. ET, April 22, 2021

Brazil's Bolsonaro moderates tone and promises to eliminate illegal deforestation in country by 2030

From CNN’s Rodrigo Pedroso in Sao Paulo

US State Department
US State Department

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro appeared to moderate his tone on environmental issues at Thursday's virtual climate summit.

Bolsonaro reconfirmed his goal to eliminate illegal deforestation in the country by 2030, stating his government is strengthening environmental agencies, which goes in the opposite direction of the actions taken so far by his Environmental ministry.

Bolsonaro called on the international community to provide funding to help conserve the Amazon. 

"We coincide, Mr. President (Biden), with your call to establish ambitious commitments. In this sense, I have determined that our climate neutrality is to be achieved by 2050. Anticipating the previous goal in 10 years," he said.

"Among the necessary measures for achieving this, I highlight here the commitment to eliminate illegal deforestation by 2030. With that, we will reduce our emissions (of greenhouse gas) by almost 50% until that date."

Bolsonaro asked for international funding to help to conserve the Amazon.

“Given the magnitude of the obstacles, including financial ones, it is essential to be able to count on the contribution of countries, companies, entities and people willing to act immediately, real and constructively in the solution of these problems. This year, the international community will have a unique opportunity to cooperate with the construction of our common future," said.

Bolsonaro claimed the Amazon region needs to be developed economically. "The solution to this Amazonian paradox is an essential condition for the sustainable development of the region," he said said, arguing that Brazil has little contribution to climate change.

"We cannot forget the main cause of the problem: the burning of fossil fuels over the past two centuries. Brazil participated with less than 1% of the historic emissions of greenhouse gases, even though it is one of the largest economies in the world," he continued.

Some more background: Traditionally one of the first country's to speak at world climate meetings, Brazil was one of the last to speak at this time. Bolsonaro's words came in line with a letter sent to President Biden last week, in which he vowed to work towards a zero deforestation rate in 2030 in Brazil.

Despite Bolsonaro's speech, deforestation in Brazil remains on the rise. The environmental agencies Ibama and ICMBio are facing a lack of resources and public servants, with military personnel in technical positions and with less authority to supervise.

 Read more about Bolsonaro's past stances on climate here.