Climate Summit’s Final Day to Focus on Technology, Innovation

Climate Summit’s Final Day to Focus on Technology, Innovation

Officials will weigh how to achieve emission-reduction goals laid out by world leaders

Officials from the U.S. and other nations will spend the final day of a global climate summit focused on innovation, as they debate how to deploy technology and economic incentives to achieve the emission-reduction goals laid out by world leaders.

President Biden used the first day of the summit to unveil a new target that calls for cutting U.S. emissions 50% to 52% from 2005 levels—a common baseline for such climate targets—by 2030. China said it would reduce coal consumption, and several other countries pledged to cut future emissions and expand their use of renewable energy.

“The signs are unmistakable, the science is undeniable and the cost of inaction keeps mounting,” Mr. Biden said Thursday.

The climate summit is aimed at jump-starting global efforts to reduce emissions as part of the Paris agreement, which calls on countries to ratchet up their climate commitments every five years. The deal relies largely on international pressure, rather than legally binding enforcement mechanisms, to persuade countries to make deep emissions cuts.

After appearances on the first day by leaders of many of the wealthiest and most populous nations, Friday’s speaking roster will include the heads of 10 more countries, including Denmark, Israel, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and Poland. The U.S. lineup for Friday’s session will include John Kerry, the Biden administration’s special climate envoy, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai.

The day’s first session will focus on technological innovation by governments and the private sector. The second discussion will make the case for the economic benefits of reducing emissions, and will include appearances by Mr. Biden and the heads of several U.S. energy companies and labor unions.

Scientists and activists say that without major action this decade from the U.S., China, the European Union, India and other top emitters, countries won’t be able to meet the Paris agreement’s goal of keeping average global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. Temperature increases above that threshold could be devastating for some ecosystems and could result in rising seas that flood major cities, among other risks, according to the United Nations.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said Thursday that China would reduce coal consumption starting in 2026. Mr. Xi’s promise offered a peak but not an end to China’s coal consumption and didn’t meet the expectations of climate campaigners who were hoping for a more ambitious emissions-reduction timetable.

Instead, Mr. Xi reiterated the timetable he had already set forth for China reaching peak carbon emissions before 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality—net-zero carbon-dioxide emissions—by 2060.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a new partnership with the U.S. to expand renewable energy. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his country would aim for a reduction in carbon output below 2005 levels of between 40% to 45% by the end of the decade. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the U.K. was putting into legislation its intention to cut emissions by 78% from 1990 levels by 2035. That goal, announced earlier in the week, is a step up from a previous target of a 68% emissions cut by 2030.

The EU this week approved a trillion-dollar plan aimed at making the 27-country bloc climate-neutral by 2050 and improving its overall ecological performance.

China, the world’s No. 1 emitter, and many developing nations say they shouldn’t shoulder the same responsibilities as developed countries to combat climate change, arguing that wealthy nations were allowed to release greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere unchecked for decades while they industrialized.

In 2019, the most recent year for which complete data are available, U.S. emissions were about 13% below 2005 levels, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Emissions last year were projected to be down 21% from that 2005 baseline, due in part to a slowdown related to the Covid-19 pandemic. But this year, emissions are tracking higher again as the economy recovers.