Ed’s note: What’s the point of President Biden’s Climate Summit?

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US President Joe Biden invited 40 world leaders to the virtual Leaders Summit on Climate he will host on 22-23 April. The Summit, which will be live-streamed for public viewing, happens exactly 5 years to the day after the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2016.

It also coincides with Earth Day, the annual event on April 22 to demonstrate support for environmental protection. A bunch of lovely little “coincidences” cosying up together.

After four years of inaction under President Donald Trump, to put it mildly, the US hopes to show the entire world that they are once again ready to help battle climate change, as well as resume their front-row position in the geopolitical arena. This is one of the reasons why President Biden is hosting this summit, as a milestone before COP26 later this year (1-12 November 2021).

And although the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) says that a net-zero carbon future by 2050 is still feasible, fact remains that emissions continue to rise. This is despite the temporary reduction due to the COVID-19 lockdowns and despite the 5-year-old pledges of the Paris Agreement, which are supposed to be renewed and adjusted as needed every five years. Something that not all countries have done yet. 

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Most countries, in fact, are not on track to meet the Paris Agreement’s goals, according to the Council of Foreign Relations. China is the top emitter and although President Xi announced last year that the country aims for carbon neutrality by 2060, it hasn’t formally submitted its new NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions) yet. The host, the US, is the second emitter and President Biden has vowed to make the country carbon neutral by 2050. Given the “inactivity” of the previous administration, that task cannot be easy.

The third biggest emitter, that would be us here in the European Union, has already submitted its NDCs and works toward carbon neutrality by 2050. Finally, India, the fourth biggest emitter, has pledged to generate 40% of its total electricity from renewables, but New Delhi hasn’t submitted its new NDCs yet.

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Here is the thing; five years since the Paris Agreement and one pandemic (that kept us in our homes, incapable of polluting to the maximum of our capabilities) later, our future still looks kind of toxic (pun intended).

Therefore, it is not surprising that environmentalists and activists alike are not holding their breath while waiting for the outcome of this virtual summit on climate. As Greta Thunberg, the eighteen-year-old Swedish climate activist told the New Yorker, she knows she is going to be disappointed. Transiting from a President that used to call the climate change issue “a very expensive hoax” to one that considers it the “number one issue facing humanity” is very important. But sadly, it is not enough.

As Greta mentioned to the New Yorker, “The things that they are going to present will not be nearly enough for what science is saying will be in line with the Paris Agreement”. And what she’ll do? “… I’ll just be calling that out, I guess.”

Now, although I must admit that I’ve never been an admirer or a supporter of this courageous young woman, as I find her too manichaeistic for my taste, this time I cannot help but wonder… is she right? What do you think?

I would be keen to hear your thoughts via editorial@smart-energy.com.

Cheers,

Areti Ntaradimou
Editor, Smart Energy International