US President Joe Biden on Friday urged the world to bring its “highest” ambition to a UN summit on climate change in November, saying that the planet faces a tightening deadline.
“We have to bring to Glasgow our highest ambitions. Those who have not yet done so, time is running out,” Mr Biden said at the White House at the start of a virtual summit with nine foreign leaders.
Mr Biden said the US was taking concrete steps towards UN climate goals but noted that recent devastating flooding in the US north-east and wildfires in western states echoed extreme weather events from China to the Amazon.
Last month, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said the Earth's average global temperature will reach 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels around 2030, a decade earlier than projected three years ago.
Mr Biden said this represents “a code red for humanity” and that “we have to act, all of us, we have to act now".
The US president called the virtual forum — where the absences of Chinese President Xi Jinping and the leaders of Brazil and India were notable — in preparation for Cop26, the major UN summit taking place in Glasgow at the start of November.
World leaders will also be attending a separate, closed-doors climate conference on Monday on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly in New York.
The Glasgow summit will focus on ensuring the world sticks to an agreed goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C.
“Over the next 1,000 hours, between now and everyone coming to Cop26, we must do the work that will allow us to come to Glasgow bearing the ambitious [goals] and rock-solid commitments on coal, cars and trees,” UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said during the summit.
But “without adequate commitments from every nation in this room, the goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C slips through our hands and that is a disaster,” Mr Biden said.
He pointed to the US commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions between 50 and 52 per cent by 2030 compared with 2005 levels, along with several other hefty targets.
One of these is a joint pledge with the EU and other partners to reduce global methane emissions by at least 30 per cent below 2020 levels by 2030.
Mr Johnson announced he will be signing the US-EU pledge.
“President Biden makes a very good point when he talks about the action that we need to take on methane and I’m very pleased to say the UK will be among the very first to sign the methane pledge,” Mr Johnson said. “Because it is a microcosm of the challenges we face.”
Attending the White House meeting by video link were the presidents of Argentina, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Mexico and South Korea as well as UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, European Council President Charles Michel and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.