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Biden Summit gives hope to curb climate change but a long way to go

Is the planet finally on track to curb climate change? After the return of the United States to the fight against global warming, experts say yes with caution, given the doubts about the ability of the great powers to fulfill their commitments.

“We made a breakthrough,” US President Joe Biden said on Friday, closing the virtual summit he organized to turn the page on the era of Donald Trump, a skeptic of climate change.

This is the “start of the road” to a new climate deal at the UN COP26 conference in November in Glasgow, Scotland, he said.

The United States doubled its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Japan, Canada, the European Union and the United Kingdom also increased their commitments.

John Kerry, Biden’s climate envoy, said more than half of the world economy has promised measures to keep global warming 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

This is the aspiration set by the 2015 Paris Agreement, the current UN framework convention on climate change, to avoid droughts, floods and natural disasters that could trigger famines and mass migration.

But the other half of the world economy is still missing, and there are record temperatures every year.

Fatih Birol, director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), said at the summit that the emissions responsible for global warming will register in 2021 the second largest increase in history amid the economic recovery from the covid-19 pandemic. .

Furthermore, more than half of the reductions needed to reach carbon neutrality goals by mid-century will depend on technological innovations that do not yet exist.

“Right now, the data doesn’t match the rhetoric,” he warned.

Climate Analytics’ Bill Hare said the new commitments, if met, will mean a 12-14% drop in the effort still needed in terms of emissions reductions by 2030.

“Politically, there is a momentum,” he acknowledged.

But the countries’ promises have yet to be translated into concrete plans.

And the aid of the main economies to the poorest countries, to make their own ecological transition or face the effects of global warming, is still very insufficient, despite Biden’s promise to increase the US contribution that Trump cut.

– The Brazilian question –

China, the world’s largest emitter of CO2, reiterated its promise to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060 – that is, absorb as much as emit – and hinted that after 2025 it would begin to reduce the use of carbon, the most important form of energy. pollutant.

“There is no question that signaling that China is ready to start phasing out coal by 2025 is extremely important,” said David Waskow, director of the World Resources Institute (WRI) International Climate Initiative.

But India remains well below expectations, as are rich countries like Australia.

“And there are certainly many reasons to be concerned about the direction of this Brazilian government,” Waskow said.

President Jair Bolsonaro, under whose tenure the devastation of the Amazon grew, promised carbon neutrality by 2050 and the elimination of illegal logging by 2030.

“But how are these statements supported in practice?” The expert wondered.

The top 10 CO2 emitters are responsible for almost 69% of the global total: China (26.1%), the United States (12.6%), the European Union (7.52%), India (7.08% ), Russia (5.36%), Japan (2.5%), Brazil (2.19%), Indonesia (2.03%), Iran (1.74%) and Canada (1.52%), according to the WRI.

– “Engraving in marble” –

Biden is determined to confront but also take advantage of the “existential threat of climate change.”

So he proposed to Congress a $ 2 trillion infrastructure package that seeks to transition to a green economy.

But it runs into opposition from Trump’s Republican Party, aligned with the fossil fuel industry and reluctant to international agreements.

According to Waskow, Biden is betting that businesses and state and local governments move toward clean energy and electric vehicles regardless of the political winds in Washington.

“They want to engrave it in marble,” he said.

Nathan Hultman, director of the Center for Global Sustainability at the University of Maryland, said Biden sent a “super strong signal” about the weather.

But most of the 50-52% emission reductions by 2030 are focused on energy and transport, and moving forward requires looking to other sectors.

“It is not just about reaching 2030, but about reaching zero emissions by the middle of the century,” he stressed.

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