What to Know About the Biden Administration's Climate Summit

President Joe Biden will convene a virtual two-day climate summit next week coinciding with Earth Day

joe biden
Joe Biden. Photo: Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images

In an effort to position the U.S. as a global leader on climate change, President Joe Biden will convene a virtual climate summit Thursday and Friday, coinciding with Earth Day.

According to a statement released by the White House last month, the summit is meant to "underscore the urgency – and the economic benefits – of stronger climate action," and will serve as a milestone ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference set for November in Glasgow.

The White House added that Biden has invited 40 world leaders to the summit which will be live-streamed for public viewing.

The countries being represented include the 17 responsible for approximately 80 percent of global emissions and global GDP as well as others "that are demonstrating strong climate leadership, are especially vulnerable to climate impacts, or are charting innovative pathways to a net-zero economy," the White House said.

The summit comes four years after former President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. would cease all participation in the landmark Paris climate agreement, under which the country had pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

"I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris," Trump said in announcing the move.

Biden signed an executive order recommitting to the climate accord on his first day in office, and U.S. announced it had officially rejoined the agreement in February.

"We can no longer delay or do the bare minimum to address climate change," Biden said at the time of the announcement. "This is a global, existential crisis. And we'll all suffer the consequences if we fail."

Scientists have emphasized the need to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius in order to stave off the worst effects of climate change, such as the loss of certain species and severe weather events.

A key challenge, however, is the cooperation of a broad swath of major economies, including Chin and India.

"A key goal of both the Leaders Summit and the November Climate Change Conference will be "to catalyze efforts that keep that 1.5-degree goal within reach," the White House said.

The White House added that the summit will also "highlight examples of how enhanced climate ambition will create good paying jobs, advance innovative technologies, and help vulnerable countries adapt to climate impacts."

Even before taking office in January, Biden made sharply contrasting efforts from the previous administration in regards to climate change.

As a candidate, he proposed a plan that would make U.S. electricity production carbon-free by 2035 and work to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. The plan would also include a large investment in public transport, electric vehicle manufacturing and energy-efficient building construction.

In November, the then president-elect announced that his administration would create a new, specialized role on the National Security Council that would specifically address climate change, naming former Secretary of State John Kerry as his special presidential envoy for climate.

On Thursday, Politico reported Biden had drafted an executive order that would take action to combat climate-related financial risks to the American economy and could include new business regulations.

The outlet reported that the order asks banking, housing and agriculture regulators "to incorporate climate risk into their supervision of major industries and the lending of federal funds."

According to Politico, the order was being prepared ahead of the climate summit. The White House said in its own statement that the U.S. will announce "an ambitious 2030 emissions target as its new Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement" by the time of the summit.

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