A virtual summit
On April 22nd and 23rd, while we were celebrating Earth Day, President Joe Biden brought together 40 world leaders for the first virtual Leaders’ Summit on Climate. The two-day online event, held seven months before the postponed and long-awaited COP26, aimed to reinforce countries’ commitment to act against the climate emergency and emphasise the need for collective action. Much was discussed, so to save you time, we’ve collated the announcements that will impact cleantech businesses the most.
The United States want you to know they’re taking climate leadership seriously
If anything, the Leader’s Summit was a demonstration from the United States that they are once again taking climate action seriously. Only four months after re-joining the Paris Agreement, the country is now planning on halving its greenhouse gases emissions by 2030, which would cut the global emission gap by 5 to 10 per cent.
Since the beginning of the year, the Biden administration has announced and rolled-out a multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure plan heavily focused on clean technology and green recovery. This new target will undoubtedly challenge other leaders, and main polluting nations, to come up with their own climate pledges.
As for the impact it will have in the United States, it will likely reinforce the country’s commitment to invest in clean technologies, especially those accelerating the transition towards a net-zero economy.
Meanwhile in Europe… putting climate action into law
While the Paris Agreement has been the guiding star of governments and companies’ climate action and commitment, climate activists have also criticised it for not being legally binding.
While most countries have limited their commitments to setting targets and goals, the European Union and the UK have now put their greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets into law. The EU will embed into law a 78% GHG reduction below 1990 levels by 2035, while the UK will make legally binding a GHG reduction of at least 55% by 2030 and a net-zero target by 2050.
This is a major shift for the world’s third largest economy. Until now, the EU had only agreed on general GHG emission reduction targets and left it to its members to make them legally binding. By making it legally binding across the EU, we can expect to see increased cooperation between countries and more investment dedicated to cleantech.
As the COP26 host, the UK is particularly keen to show climate leadership, especially since the climate summit has already faced criticism for its lack of female voices and the UK government’s dubious climate credentials.
Lots of words for very few actions?
More than five years after the Paris Agreement signature, challenges remain the same: we have seen plenty of individual pledges from both governments and global corporations, but few concrete actions and policy implementation. This lack of global action means that we are still waiting to see the necessary progress needed to avoid a climate catastrophe. In fact, 2020 was the hottest year on record despite a fall in GHG emissions due to the global pandemic.
While the Leaders’ Summit demonstrated a consensus in the need for climate action and a willingness from polluting giants like China to cooperate, there was no discussion of actual solutions. There was also no talk of potential climate reparations, nor was there plans for ensuring that cleantech solutions would benefit, as a priority, the communities most affected by the climate crisis.
We can however welcome the focus on the economic and social benefits of tackling the climate emergency, as well as the jobs creation it will bring in the cleantech space. It also demonstrated that an online summit could be held, when government sources suggest that the COP26 could be delayed a second time.
For climate negotiations to be truly successful, there is no time to waste, and nobody should be left behind. Country leaders must offer a seat at the table to indigenous communities and other climate activists already working on solutions.