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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10:22 a.m. ET, April 22, 2021

US President Biden calls on world leaders to take action on climate: "The signs are unmistakable"

From CNN's Betsy Klein

President Biden kicked off the Leaders Summit on Climate Thursday with welcoming remarks, calling on the world leaders to take action to combat climate change collectively as he announced an aggressive new goal for greenhouse gas emissions.

The first moments of Biden’s remarks, including the entirety of introductory remarks by Vice President Kamala Harris, were wracked with audio issues. The pool was unable to provide the summit live to television networks, a last-minute change, so reporters were reliant on a whitehouse.gov feed.

Biden pointed to actions the US would take, an effort to reassert US leadership and put the US back to the center of the global effort to address the climate crisis after the Trump administration largely disengaged.

“The signs are unmistakable, the science is undeniable that the cost of inaction, it just keeps mounting. The United States isn’t waiting. We are resolving to take action, not only our federal government, but our cities and our states all across our country, small businesses, large corporations, American workers in every field,” he said.

Biden focused on the job creation aspect of addressing the climate crisis in his remarks, suggesting he sees “an opportunity to create millions of good-paying middle class union jobs.”

“When I talk about climate, I think jobs. Within our climate response lies an extraordinary job creation and economic opportunity ready to be fired up,” Biden said, going on to urge investment in infrastructure.

“I want to build critical infrastructure to produce and deploy clean technology, both those we can harness today and those we will invent tomorrow,” he said.

Harris made brief introductory remarks ahead of Biden, outlining how the leaders present share the common concern of climate change.

“As a global community, it is imperative that we act quickly and together,” she said, calling for innovation and collaboration “around the world.”

8:40 a.m. ET, April 22, 2021

Transportation secretary: US climate goals not about Americans' individual choices, but matter of policy

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

As President Biden commited the United States to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told CNN it's now a matter of policy and not individual choices to make these goals a reality.

"It's going to take a national effort but this is not a matter of something that can be done just by asking individual Americans to make individual choices. This is a matter of policy," he told CNN Thursday.

Giving the example of electric vehicles, he said it won't take any sacrifice for Americans but policy needs to ensure that "they're affordable, to make sure we have enough charging stations around the country, to make sure the electric vehicles of tomorrow are made in America on American soil by American workers, preferably American union workers."

In the larger picture, Buttigieg pointed out that the US is responsible for about 15% of the world's emissions.

"That's why it was so disastrous when the last administration basically left the US seat at the table empty. That's why it's so important today that we are convening," he added, saying that it's important that the country leads the way.

"We're looking for other countries to make big commitments as well. But we can't do that with a straight face if America isn't leading the way, if we're not walking the talk. That's what this big, bold but achievable commitment from the President today is going to help us do —resume that position of US Leadership and then challenge the other nations of the world to be part of the solution as well."

Watch:

8:44 a.m. ET, April 22, 2021

Al Gore calls US emissions pledge "a ground-breaking step"

From CNN's CNN’s Jacqueline Rose

Former Vice President Al Gore delivers a speech on renewable energy in Manhattan in 2019.
Former Vice President Al Gore delivers a speech on renewable energy in Manhattan in 2019. Scott Heins/Getty Images

Former Vice President and Nobel Laureate Al Gore praised the Biden Administration’s pledge on cutting US carbon emissions on Thursday, calling it “a ground-breaking step” and saying, “we have no more time to waste.”

Gore noted that significant cuts are needed in this decade if we are to limit the global temperature rise and avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.

“This ambitious goal is one that we must reach. I know that with the Biden Administration’s whole-of-government approach, paired with investments in green jobs and infrastructure under consideration in Congress, we can,” Gore said.

In 2006, former VP Gore brought climate change to the forefront of global discussion with the Academy-Award winning film An Inconvenient Truth. Gore shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for their efforts to study and inform the global audience about the climate challenge.

More on Biden's announcement: Biden committed the United States to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 50% to 52% below its 2005 emissions levels by 2030. While the goals are a part of the Paris climate agreement that Biden rejoined upon taking office, they are non-binding and the administration has not rolled out a plan on how the US will meet them. 

10:22 a.m. ET, April 22, 2021

President Biden announces US will aim to cut carbon emissions by as much as 52% by 2030 

From CNN's Kate Sullivan and Kevin Liptak

President Biden speaks during the virtual Leaders Summit on Climate from the East Room of the White House on Thursday.
President Biden speaks during the virtual Leaders Summit on Climate from the East Room of the White House on Thursday. Evan Vucci/AP

President Biden just committed the United States to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 50%-52% below its 2005 emissions levels by 2030.

Officials said Biden and his team arrived at the final number in a meeting at the White House on Wednesday morning.

While the goals are a part of the Paris climate agreement that Biden rejoined upon taking office, they are non-binding and the administration has not rolled out a plan on how the US will meet them. 

In an address opening the summit, Biden laid out his vision for a greener economy in which climate change is taken seriously across all sectors and results in more jobs for the blue-collar workers he has focused on throughout his career.

"That's where we're headed as a nation, and that's what we can do if we take action to build an economy that's not only more prosperous but healthier, fairer and cleaner for the entire planet," Biden said.

"These steps will set America's economy to net-zero emissions by no later than 2050," he added.

Biden also used his remarks to warn about the impacts of not acting on climate change.

"The signs are unmistakable. The science is undeniable. But the cost of inaction, keeps mounting," Biden said. "The United States is not waiting, we are resolving to take action."

Watch:

10:22 a.m. ET, April 22, 2021

NOW: US President Biden and Vice President Harris open inaugural session of the summit

From CNN's Kate Sullivan and Kevin Liptak

State Department
State Department

President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are opening the inaugural session of the "Leaders Summit on Climate."

Biden is expected to announce an ambitious cut in greenhouse gas emissions as he looks to put the US back at the center of the global effort to address the climate crisis and curb carbon emissions. He will commit the United States to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 50%-52% below its 2005 emissions levels by 2030. 

According to the schedule released by the State Department, the first session of the summit will "underscore the urgent need for the world’s major economies to strengthen their climate ambition by the time of COP 26 to keep the goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach."

Countries will also be able to highlight "the climate-related challenges" they face.

These are the world leaders that are participating in the first session:

  • United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres 
  • Prime Minister Gaston Browne, Antigua and Barbuda 
  • President Alberto Fernandez, Argentina  
  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Australia   
  • Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh 
  • Prime Minister Lotay Tshering, Bhutan 
  • President Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil   
  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Canada   
  • President Sebastián Piñera, Chile 
  • President Xi Jinping, People’s Republic of China  
  • President Iván Duque Márquez, Colombia  
  • President Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission 
  • President Emmanuel Macron, France  
  • President Ali Bongo Ondimba, Gabon  
  • Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany  
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India  
  • President Joko Widodo, Indonesia   
  • Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Italy  
  • Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Japan  
  • President David Kabua, Republic of the Marshall Islands 
  • President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Mexico   
  • President Moon Jae-in, Republic of Korea   
  • President Vladimir Putin, The Russian Federation    
  • King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia  
  • President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa   
  • President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey 
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson, United Kingdom 

7:56 a.m. ET, April 22, 2021

The first day of the climate summit kicks off soon. Here's what to expect — and key things to know.

From CNN's Kate Sullivan and Kevin Liptak

President Biden will soon kick off a climate summit attended by 40 other world leaders by announcing an ambitious cut in greenhouse gas emissions as he looks to put the US back at the center of the global effort to address the climate crisis and curb carbon emissions.

More on the US announcement: At the White House summit, which will take place virtually on Thursday and Friday, Biden will commit the United States to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 50%-52% below its 2005 emissions levels by 2030.

Officials said Biden and his team arrived at the final number in a meeting at the White House on Wednesday morning. The figures were struck after lengthy consultations with government agencies, scientists, industry representatives, governors, mayors and environmental researchers. The move underscores the President's commitment to addressing the climate crisis and follows on his pledge to work with other countries to find joint solutions to global issues.

What the President will not unveil, at least right now, is a specific road map for how the United States will reach those targets, which are being described as "economy-wide."

Key summit topics: The summit will focus on mobilizing public and private sector finance to reach net-zero emissions and "build a resilient future," according to the official. The US plans to discuss investing in innovation, which the administration argues is critical to creating transformational technologies to reduce emissions and at the same time creates new economic opportunities.

It's hoped that other countries will follow the US' lead with additional announcements of new goals to tackle the crisis, the administration official said.

The leaders who have confirmed attendance: Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping are two notable leaders who have both confirmed their attendance at the summit, underscoring the wide range of leaders attending. The summit will also be attended by many allies of the US, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Read more about the summit here.

7:53 a.m. ET, April 22, 2021

Biden aims to reassert US leadership on climate with this week's virtual summit

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

President Biden hopes this week's event will place the US back at the fore of global efforts to combat climate change, after four years in which the issue was neglected.

While former President Trump frequently touted the cleanliness of American air and water, he took steps to roll back the carbon reduction efforts made by the Obama administration.

A few months into his presidency, Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris climate agreement against the urging of top leaders, who said global unity on the issue was paramount. At a heated G7 summit held cliffside in Sicily, leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sought to use their first encounter with Trump to press him into remaining in the deal.

But Trump refused, announcing in the Rose Garden he had been "elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris."

White House officials insist progress on cutting emissions did not completely stop under Trump; instead it shifted to state and local governments, along with actions taken in the private sector. Indeed, after Trump declared he was looking out for Pittsburgh and not Paris, the mayor of Pittsburgh declared he would continue pressing ahead on reducing carbon emissions anyway.

"We're pretty close to being on the trajectory we said we would be on," a senior administration official said on Wednesday. "The fact that the change in the administration led to a top-line view that it wasn't a priority didn't in fact effect a lot of the trajectory in the country."

Biden, who has already reentered the Paris deal, hopes to send a signal both to foreign leaders and an audience at home that he is adopting a different approach than the previous administration.

7:50 a.m. ET, April 22, 2021

The Dalai Lama and 100 other Nobel Prize laureates are urging world leaders to phase out fossil fuels

From CNN's Ivana Kottasová

As the world's most powerful leaders prepare to come together for President Biden's virtual climate summit, the Dalai Lama and 100 other Nobel Prize winners have a clear message for them: Keep fossil fuels in the ground.

The 101 Nobel laureates have written to Biden and those attending the meeting on Thursday, urging them to take concrete steps to phase out fossil fuels in order to prevent catastrophic climate change.

"The burning of fossil fuels is responsible for almost 80% of carbon dioxide emissions since the industrial revolution," the letter, shared exclusively with CNN, says, adding: "Allowing the continued expansion of this industry is unconscionable."

The signatories make it clear they believe it is up to the summit's attendees to act. "Leaders, not industry, hold the power and have the moral responsibility to take bold actions to address this crisis," they said.

The laureates outline three steps they say world leaders need to take:

  • Put an end to any further expansion of oil, gas and coal production
  • Phase out existing fossil fuel production in a manner that is fair and equitable
  • Invest heavily in the global transition to renewable energy

"In addition to being the leading source of emissions, there are local pollution, environmental and health costs associated with extracting, refining, transporting and burning fossil fuels. These costs are often paid by Indigenous peoples and marginalized communities," the letter says.

The letter, which was coordinated by the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative, has been signed by some of the world's most distinguished scientists, peace makers and writers.

7:46 a.m. ET, April 22, 2021

Today's summit will be a different type of gathering due to the pandemic

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

Known to favor a back-slap and handshake style, President Biden will be limited to a computer screen as he seeks to restore American credibility on the world stage while also convincing fellow leaders to make bold pledges to stave off global warming.

Officials said the logistics of a virtual summit made pull-asides or individual bilateral meetings difficult to organize, and Biden has found previous virtual meetings with foreign leaders somewhat stilted.

This week's meeting is the largest virtual summit of world leaders to be convened over the past pandemic-altered year.

When he begins traveling abroad, potentially as soon as June, Biden is expected to continue pressing on climate issues leading up to a major summit in Scotland in November.

The urgency of the matter was underscored this week in a new report from the International Energy Agency, which estimated carbon emissions from energy use are on track to spike by 1.5 billion tons in 2021 as heavy coal consumption in Asia – China, in particular – outweigh rapid growth in renewable sources.

That would be the second largest annual increase in energy-related emissions in history.