Countries accounting for about 80% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and economic output made new promises on methane controls, clean energy technology demonstrations, zero-emission vehicles, food security and agriculture emissions, and green shipping at a Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate convened by U.S. President Joe Biden June 17.
The gathering, the third since Biden took office nearly 18 months ago, also saw commitments from Chile, Egypt, Indonesia, Mexico, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Vietnam to update or strengthen their emission reduction targets under the 2015 Paris climate agreement, the White House said in a published summary. Earlier in the week, the new government in Australia unveiled an updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the Paris deal that calls for a 43% emissions reduction from 2005 levels by 2030.
Biden “emphasized that, while COP 26 brought the world much closer to a 1.5°C limit on temperature rise, the world’s leading scientists have since underscored once more, with increased alarm, the rapidly narrowing window for decisive action to stem the climate crisis,” the readout said.
“Leaders spoke to the imperative and urgency of further strengthening action in this critical decade, including references to the importance of countries updating NDC targets this year that are not yet in line with the Paris Agreement temperature goal and to the need for submitting or updating long-term strategies,” the summary added. “Many emphasized the link between climate security and energy security, noting that Russia’s war in Ukraine only highlights the need to accelerate the clean energy transition and that renewable energy supports energy security.”
Many participating countries also “highlighted the importance of scaling up finance and investment and underscored the economic and social benefits of a just energy transition.”
In the course of the Forum:
• The U.S. and the European Union unveiled an implementation plan for last year’s Global Methane Pledge, with Argentina, Canada, Egypt, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, and Norway signing on as inaugural members covering 40% of global gas production and 60% of imports. In his own post-forum communiqué, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cited Canada as the first country to commit to a 75% decrease in methane emissions from oil and gas by 2030 and promised $2 million over four years to support methane reductions in developing countries.
“The Energy Pathway aims to encourage all nations to capture the maximum potential of cost-effective methane mitigation in the oil and gas sector and to eliminate routine flaring as soon as possible, and no later than 2030,” the White House said, though the initiative has only drawn US$59 million in dedicated funding and in-kind support so far.
• Canada, the European Commission, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom promised $90 billion by 2026 for a clean energy technology demonstration challenge, with the U.S. and the EC pointing to $50 billion they’ve already committed. The White House statement pointed to the need “to build commercial-scale demonstration projects that the [International Energy Agency] reports are needed this decade to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.”
• Canada, Chile, the EC, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States agreed to a 2030 target for zero-emission vehicles to make up 50% of new light duty vehicle sales.
• Canada, Chile, the EC, France, Germany, Indonesia, Korea, Mexico, Norway, and the United Kingdom backed a Green Shipping Challenge that “encourages governments, ports, maritime carriers, cargo owners, and others to come forward at COP 27 with concrete steps, such as producing zero-emission fuels or creating green shipping corridors,” to fully decarbonize the sector by mid-century.
• The EC, Germany, and Norway signed on to a Global Fertilizer Challenge aimed at raising $100 million before this year’s COP 27 climate summit to boost food security, reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, and advance “fertilizer efficiency and alternatives”.
The White House note also pointed to strengthened climate efforts at the national and regional levels, including closing coal-fired power plants, instituting and expanding carbon pricing, modernizing hydroelectric plants, investing in solar energy, pursuing sustainable forestry, investing in hydrogen and ammonia, promoting reliable supplies of clean energy minerals and materials, strengthening national climate adaptation efforts, and pursuing emission reductions and climate resilience at the regional level.
In late May, ahead of a meeting of G7 energy and environment ministers in Berlin, the UK’s Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit, the E3G climate consultancy, and the World Resources Institute published a disappointing assessment of countries’ progress on climate action since COP 26. “At COP26, all countries agreed to revisit and strengthen their 2030 climate targets this year,” the groups wrote. But at that point, none of the G20 countries had “meaningfully done so”, and nor had the hosts of the next two UN climate summits, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. The report pointed fingers at:
• Australia, Brazil, Indonesia, and Mexico as climate laggards;
• Egypt, India, and Turkey as climate “stallers”;
• China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia as climate “stragglers”;
• Argentina, Canada, the European Union, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Africa, South Korea, the Emirates, the UK, and the U.S. as jurisdictions that “urgently need to implement their targets”.
“All countries need to decide this year how they’ll do more before 2030 to keep 1.5°C alive, both raising the ambition of their climate targets and setting out clear policies and plans for delivering on their promise,” the report stated [pdf].
“Implementation of climate targets is critical to turn promises into action,” it added, the more so because “the geopolitical context has changed considerably since COP 26, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Many nations are looking to speed up decarbonization to end their reliance on fossil fuels and therefore cut off finance flows into Russia; that could provide significant scope for enhanced ambition in those nations’ NDCs.”
Last week, Wired reported that renewable energy is cheap enough to allow the U.S. to cut its emissions by half by 2030—but only if the country can pull together the political will to get it done. The language at Biden’s summit a couple of days later brought new momentum to that action. But not before the world’s richest nations stood accused of hypocrisy after two weeks of pre-COP 27 negotiations in Bonn, where the U.S., the EU, and Switzerland reportedly obstructed progress on key issues like emissions reductions, climate finance, and recognition of the unavoidable loss and damage that many developing countries already face as a result of accelerating climate impacts.