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Biden and world leaders try to define next steps on climate

Washington (AP) – President Joe Biden tried to define the world’s next steps against rapidly worsening climate change in a private virtual session with a small group of other world leaders on Friday, and announced a new pledge American-European to reduce climate change methane leaks.

Scientists’ ever darker findings this year that the world is approaching the point where the level of climate damage from the burning of oil, gas and coal becomes catastrophic and irreversible “represent a code red for humanity”, said Biden said at the start of the session.

“We have to act and we have to act now,” Biden said, speaking to a specially erected set at the White House that showed virtual arrays of solar panels in the background and a wall of other world leaders listening to music. screens.

He cited his tour earlier this month to communities affected by relentless California wildfires and Hurricane Ida in the northeastern United States and the Gulf – proof that warnings of natural disasters are s ‘worsening in number and severity as the climate warms is already becoming a reality.

Drought and rising temperatures have made California’s wildfire season virtually year-round, state fire officials say. And a study done this year concluded that rising sea levels caused by global warming caused an additional $ 8 billion in damage to the 2012 Super Storm Sandy.

“Over the past two weeks, I have traveled across the United States to see the damage and destruction,” Biden said. “The climate continues to change in Europe, Africa and Latin America, and you have suffered massive flooding. “

The Biden administration presented the meeting as an opportunity for some of the world’s leaders to strategize to achieve large and rapid reductions in climate-destroying oil and coal emissions. The administration is also trying to re-establish the United States Major Economies Forum – a climate group created by President Barack Obama and revived by Biden – as an important forum for international climate negotiations.

Friday’s meeting followed a much larger and more vibrant White House virtual climate summit in April that saw dozens of government leaders – representing allies and rivals, and large and small. savings – making radical speeches on the need to act on climate change.

Friday’s list of attendees included just nine leaders: those from Argentina, Bangladesh, Indonesia, South Korea, Mexico, the UK and the European Council, the Commission of the European Union and United Nations.

China, India and Russia, along with the United States, are the nations that emit the most climate-damaging gases from the production and combustion of oil, natural gas, and coal, and participation of their leaders has not been announced.

Climate advocates have stressed the importance of the United States’ coordination with Europe and Asia for a united front to lobby China, which emits more climate-damaging fumes than the rest of the developed world combined. , to accelerate the reduction of its use of dirty combustion coal. – thermal power stations in particular.

Biden, during the public opening of the otherwise private talks, also discussed a new U.S. deal with the European Union to cut methane emissions from the two entities by 30% by the end of this decade. Methane is one of the most potent agents of climate damage, gushing by the ton from countless uncapped oil and gas platforms, leaking gas pipelines, and other oil and gas facilities.

Fred Krupp, chairman of the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund, said reducing methane pollution is the fastest and most effective strategy to slow the rate of warming.

A 30% reduction in methane pollution should only be “the entry point of this critical conversation.” Many countries can and should aim even higher, ”Krupp said.

The pledge comes as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency prepares to propose stricter rules against methane emissions for the oil and gas industry, as outlined in one of Biden’s early executive orders.

The new rules, expected in the next two weeks, are likely to be stricter than an Obama-era standard established in 2016. The Obama standard was reinstated in June after Congress took the unusual step of invalidate a rollback of Trump-era methane protections. .

The EPA’s pending rule is expected to restrict methane emissions from new and existing wells, including hundreds of thousands of older wells that are not federally regulated under current law.

Biden has sought to re-establish the United States as a leader in global climate efforts after President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris climate agreement.

At home, however, Biden is still working to secure significant investments in climate-friendly measures, such as electric vehicle charging stations outside of Congress, amid objections from Republicans and some Democrats.

Friday’s session will be followed by another closed-door session of 35 to 40 world leaders, which will be hosted Monday morning by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The private sessions aim to ensure that world leaders travel to a United Nations climate session in November with pledges of important new actions to slow climate change. Biden and others see the UN climate summit in Glasgow as a last chance for the world to commit to cutting fossil fuel use fast enough to avoid worst-case scenarios of global warming.

“We need to bring our highest ambitions to Glasgow,” Biden said. “Those who have not yet done so, time is running out.”


Knickmeyer reported from Oklahoma City.

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