Biden puts climate at center of diplomacy, to host summit in April

Jan 28 , 2021. KYODO NEWS – 3 hours ago – 07:12 KYODO NEWS

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about climate change issues in the State Dining Room of the White House on Jan. 27, 2021 in Washington. (Pool/Getty/Kyodo)

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden said Wednesday that he will put climate-crisis considerations at the center of U.S. foreign policy, while announcing a plan to host a summit of world leaders on April 22 to boost efforts to tackle global warming.

The move reaffirms the new president’s commitment to put the United States back in a position to lead the world in taking on climate change, such as by rejoining the Paris accord from which his predecessor Donald Trump withdrew the country.

But challenges may loom in seeking cooperation from China, the world’s top carbon dioxide emitter, with the bilateral relationship having become extremely strained on a number of fronts under the Trump administration.

White House special presidential envoy John Kerry said the United States, the second-largest emitter, must deal with China on climate change as a “critical standalone issue,” but noted that it will maintain its tough stance against Beijing’s abusive trade practices, assertiveness in the South China Sea and other disturbing behaviors.

“The issues of theft of intellectual property and access to markets, South China Sea. Run the list. We all know them. Those issues will never be traded for anything that has to do with climate. That’s not going to happen,” he said.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at a separate press conference that the bilateral relationship is “the most important” the United States will have in the world going forward, and that it is a mixture of adversarial, competitive and cooperative aspects.

The United States will seek concrete progress in combating global warming, which is in the interest of both countries and of the world, but the move also “fits in the larger context of our foreign policy and the many issues of concern that we have with China,” he added.

Under an executive order signed by Biden the same day, the United States pledged to exercise its leadership on climate change and made clear that “significant” short-term global reductions of greenhouse gas emissions and net-zero emissions by mid-century or earlier are required to avoid potentially catastrophic consequences.

The United States will also start the process of developing its emissions-reduction target, known as the nationally determined contribution, under the Paris accord. It plans to announce the target before the April 22 summit, an administration official said.

In a bid to prioritize climate in U.S. foreign policy and national security, the Biden administration will come up with a “national intelligence estimate” on the security implications of climate change, and order all agencies to develop strategies for integrating climate considerations into their international work.

The president also decided to place a pause on entering into new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or offshore waters to the extent possible, and to direct federal agencies to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies.

During the election campaign, Biden vowed to work toward putting the United States on “an irreversible path” to achieve net zero emissions by no later than 2050 and to seek a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035.

One of Biden’s first actions upon taking office a week ago was to notify to the United Nations of the return of the United States to the Paris climate accord. The accord will enter into force for the United States on Feb. 19.

The 2015 Paris Agreement, a framework to involve every country in reining in greenhouse gas emissions, aims to keep rising global temperatures to “well below” 2 C higher than preindustrial levels, so as to limit the occurrence of droughts, floods, melting glaciers, rising sea levels and other results of global warming.

It also aims to effectively reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to zero in the second half of this century.

Many countries have aimed to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, with Japan joining the trend by announcing a similar goal in October. China also unveiled its plan to become carbon-neutral by 2060 at the U.N. General Assembly in September.

Cr. KYODO NEWS