World Earth Day – Leaders Summit on Climate
Five years after the Paris Agreement was signed on Earth Day in 2016, the US President Joe Biden convened a Leaders Summit on Climate to coincide with Earth Day 2021. It represented a momentous step forward from the US climate policies of recent years, and a decisive statement from international leaders on collaboration to address the climate crisis. The Zoom attendees included world leaders such as Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin, Boris Johnson, Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel, and the Pope, indicating that climate change is a top international priority, even in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Joe Biden addresses the Leaders Summit on Climate
The summit saw ambitious new emissions reduction targets declared by some countries, reflecting those announced beforehand by the UK and the EU, and a commitment to global collaboration voiced by almost all the leaders. There was a note of caution sounded by many of the less wealthy countries, who reiterated that they need international support to meet climate targets and to help mitigate for the effects of climate change.
The biggest announcement came from the US, who set a new 2030 target of a 50-52% reduction on emissions from a 2005 baseline. Although this announcement was warmly received and would have been unthinkable a year ago, Climate Action Tracker have previously identified that the target would need to be nearer a 57 to 63% emissions reduction in order to align with restricting warming to 1.5°C. Canada also increased its 2030 goal to a 40 to 45% reduction in emissions (2005 baseline), and Japan committed to reducing their emissions by 46% by 2030 (2013 baseline). China did not make any new commitments but did state that they expect their coal usage to peak this decade, which although encouraging does not preclude the creation of new coal power stations.
The UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson stressed the importance of collaboration, both between countries and between business and governments. He also echoed Xi Jinping in highlighting that it is imperative to work in harmony with nature and address the loss of species and habitats alongside the climate crisis. The UK has one of the best decarbonisation records in the world and Johnson insisted that emissions reductions do not come at the expense of economic prosperity, indeed they can drive it, or ‘cake, have, eat’ as he described it.
Boris Johnson at the Leaders Summit on Climate
Jair Bolsonaro improved on Brazil’s net-zero target substantially, bringing it forward ten years to 2050. He also repeated a commitment to end illegal deforestation by 2030, which was met with scepticism by environmental campaigners as deforestation has soared under his government, hitting a 14 year high in 2020. Brazil has recently requested international aid to help combat deforestation, however, striking a more conciliatory tone than previously, although this request could stretch to $10 billion annually. Many of the other less wealthy countries requested assistance in tackling climate change including Turkey, Bhutan, and Gabon, highlighting the $100 billion a year that was promised for climate finance in 2009. The need for international financing was acknowledged by Biden, who pledged to double US international climate finance and by Johnson who urged international finance investment.
Many of the leaders highlighted new technology as one of the main methods of facilitating the transition to net-zero, exploring wind, solar, nuclear, hydrogen and carbon capture as possible alternatives to fossil fuels. Biden himself described it as a ‘moment of extraordinary possibilities’, and Putin echoed this by mentioning foreign investment in climate change solutions. The Coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated that international cooperation can drive tremendous progress, and with the repeated insistence from leaders that they wish to collaborate to tackle climate change, new hopes emerge for a series of global solutions.
The global business community also used Earth Day as an impetus to release details of new net-zero targets and climate-friendly initiatives. Burger King, Dell, Lucozade Ribena Suntory, Nestlé, Verizon, Visa and Whitbread were amongst companies setting ambitious new interim or final net-zero targets, many adhering to the Science-based Targets Initiative that verifies emissions reduction goals. Colgate-Palmolive, Sainsbury’s, and PepsiCo joined 49 other corporates in using Earth Day to announce that they have joined Amazon’s initiative The Climate Pledge, which requires signatories to reach net-zero by 2040. Amazon and Nestlé also joined Unilever and the US, UK, and Norwegian governments in setting up a new public-private initiative called LEAF (Lowering Emissions by Accelerating Forest finance) that aims to protect tropical forest from deforestation.
The Creating Tomorrow's Forests Charlotte's Wood planting site. Photo credit: Tomorrow's Forests
Meanwhile at Creating Tomorrow’s Forests we were delighted to announce that some of our partners had contributed to planting another 712 trees to celebrate World Earth Day. Our Earth Day partners were SEGA, Ann Summers, iTech Media, N Brown Group, PetMedix and Cactus Energy. We would like to extend our most heartfelt thanks to them all for their contribution and for helping to demonstrate how essential business contributions can be to helping preserve and restore Earth’s ecosystems.