World is in a 'moment of peril', Joe Biden warns leaders at climate summit

Could the climate summit be a sign the world is finally taking the crisis seriously? ITV News Science Editor Tom Clarke has more

The world is in a "moment of peril", Joe Biden has warned, as he urged leaders to "meet the moment" and take action against climate change.

At a virtual climate summit attended by China, Russia, the UK and others, the US president said: “Meeting this moment is about more than preserving our planet.

"It’s about providing a better future for all of us,” he said, calling it “a moment of peril but a moment of opportunity.”

“The signs are unmistakable. The science is undeniable. The cost of inaction keeps mounting,” he added.

Biden spoke at an online summit of convened world leaders on Thursday, in which Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin also vowed to reduce their emissions.

Mr Biden vowed to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the US by 50% by 2030 at the summit.

The pledge almost doubles the nation’s previous commitment and will help the Biden administration to prod other countries for ambitious emissions cuts.

The proposal would require dramatic changes in the power and transportation sectors, including significant increases in renewable energy such as wind and solar power and steep cuts in emissions from fossil fuels such as coal and oil.

  • ITV News Science Editor Tom Clarke reports on the mammouth task ahead as countries pledge to cut emissions

"The United States is not waiting, the costs of delay are too great, and our nation is resolved to act now," the Biden administration said in a statement.

"Climate change poses an existential threat, but responding to this threat offers an opportunity to support good-paying, union jobs, strengthen America’s working communities, protect public health, and advance environmental justice," it added.

The nonbinding but symbolically important pledge is a key element of the two-day summit as world leaders gather online to share strategies to combat climate change.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned of the climate change threat Credit: Toby Melville/PA

The climate target is a key requirement of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, which Biden rejoined on his first day in office.

It’s also an important marker as Biden moves toward his ultimate goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Scientists, environmental groups and even business leaders had called on Biden to set a target that would cut US greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% below 2005 levels by 2030.

Boris Johnson also stressed the jobs and growth that could come from tackling climate change and the technological opportunities that could help solve the problem.

He welcomed the US’s new commitment to halve emissions as a "game-changing" announcement as he set out the UK’s moves to cut greenhouse gases by 78% by 2035.

"As host of Cop26 we want to see similar ambitions around the world, we are working with everybody from the smallest nations to the biggest emitters to secure commitments that will keep change to within 1.5C."

"I think we can do it, to do it we need scientists in all of our countries to work together to produce the technological solutions that humanity is going to need,” he said, pointing to technology to store carbon and cheap hydrogen.

He added: "It will mean the richest nations coming together and exceeding the 100 billion US dollar commitment that they already made in 2009” to support developing countries, stressing how important that was.

Mr Johnson has also urged leaders to come to Glasgow in November – and Kunming in China in October for a summit on tackling declines in nature – armed with ambitious targets and the plans required to reach them.

Credit: PA

His call comes after the International Energy Agency warned that global carbon emissions were set for their second biggest increase on record after a sharp drop in 2020 due to the pandemic, with demand for fossil fuels, including coal, pushing climate pollution up to close to 2019 levels.

Chinese president Xi Jingping, whose country is the world's biggest polluter of greenhouse gas emission, called for a "people-centred" approach to the climate crisis at a leaders’ summit.

President Xi said: "We must treat nature as our root, respect it, protect it and follow its laws, we should protect nature and preserve the environment like we protect our eyes.

"Second, we must be committed to green development – green mountains are gold mountains, to protect the environment is to protect productivity and to boost the environment is to boost productivity.

"The truth is as simple as that."

He added that China will "continue to prioritise ecological conservation and pursue a green and low carbon path to development, China will strive to peak carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060."

President Xi continued: "We will strictly control coal-fired carbon power projects, we will strictly limit the increase in coal consumption over the 14th five-year plan period and phase it down in the 15th five-year plan period."

Credit: AP

Japan and Canada are among the countries to unveil new climate targets at the meeting, while the European Union has agreed a new climate law which includes a goal to cut its emissions by 55% by 2030 on 1990 levels.

As part of diplomatic efforts in the lead up to the summit, the US and China issued a statement pledging to work together and with other countries on the issue.

Countries have been expected to come forward with more ambitious plans up to 2030, known as nationally determined contributions (NDC) in the Paris deal, ahead of Cop26 in November.

That is because existing plans are not enough to meet countries’ commitments under the Paris deal to curb global temperature rises to “well below” 2C above pre-industrial levels – or 1.5C if possible – and avoid the most dangerous impacts of climate change.