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Saving the World on Earth Day?

Joe Biden calls - and the world comes, at least virtually. Today, Earth Day marks the start of the climate summit convened by U.S. President Biden. A total of 40 heads of state and government are to attend and present their plans for climate protection. And the pressure on the participants has already begun to have an effect.

Image: PixabayImage: Pixabay

After years of stalemate under Donald Trump, climate protection efforts are now moving again. U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry and his Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua met last week for a special summit, after which they made a high-profile announcement that both countries want to work together again on climate protection in the future - unthinkable under Trump.

But time is pressing, as figures by the International Energy Agency (IEA) make clear: They show that global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions will rise by 1.5 billion tonnes this year - the second-largest increase in history - reversing most of last year's decline caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This would be the largest annual increase in emissions since 2010.

The IEA's Global Energy Review 2021 estimates that CO2 emissions will rise by almost 5% this year to 33 billion tonnes. Main driver is the large demand for coal, which will grow by 4.5%, surpassing 2019 levels.

"This is a dire warning that the economic recovery from the Covid crisis is currently anything but sustainable for our climate,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA Executive Director. “Unless governments around the world move rapidly to start cutting emissions, we are likely to face an even worse situation in 2022. The Leaders Summit on Climate hosted by US President Joe Biden this week is a critical moment to commit to clear and immediate action ahead of COP26 in Glasgow.”

The virtual climate summit on 22-23 April was the reason for Kerry's visit to China. The summit is expected to signal a renewed U.S. commitment to lead the global fight against climate change - after four years of the Trump administration downplaying the threat. The U.S. side is expected to announce new CO2 emissions reduction targets at the launch.

The summit is shaping up with 40 heads of state and government having announced their attendance, including high-profile figures such as France's Emanuel Macron, Germany's Angela Merkel and even Russia's Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

And the joint communication of the U.S. and China is apparently already showing its hoped-for pull effect: Thus, Great Britain announced quite surprisingly that it will drastically tighten its previously set climate protection targets for emissions reduction. Accordingly, the country wants to reduce its emissions by 78 percent (compared to 1990) by 2035. Apparently, Prime Minister Boris Johnson feels obliged to improve his own record once again before the next COP26 climate summit, which will take place this year in Glasgow, Scotland.

"Demonstrating leadership on this issue is crucial. Holding the presidency of the most important global climate summit since Paris in 2015 means the UK will play an important role in delivering an ambitious agreement in Glasgow later this year. A key goal in the run-up to COP26 is encouraging more countries to set ambitious interim emissions targets, rather than just long-term net-zero goals. Due to a rapidly growing concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, the pace of decarbonisation is as important as the end goal. By setting itself such a challenging target for 2035 (alongside its existing 68% target for 2030), the UK will hope others will follow suit, " said Tom Heggarty, Principal Analyst at Wood Mackenzie.

Americans are also aware of their part as role models, as Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken made clear this week: "If America fails to lead the world on addressing the climate crisis, we won’t have much of a world left. If we succeed, we will capitalize on the greatest opportunity to create quality jobs in generations; we’ll build a more equitable, healthy, and sustainable society; and we’ll protect this magnificent planet. That’s the test we face right now.""

By the end of this week at the latest, the world will know whether these words are followed by action.

Katrin Radtke
Joe Biden, USA, China, summit, climate protection, COP26, UK, Boris Johnson, CO2, emissions, carbon, virtual, climate change, John Kerry

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