US, Russia, China Commitments during the Virtual Climate Summit 2021

Apr 23, 2021

With the anniversary of the 51st Earth Day celebration that took place yesterday, President Joe Biden and 40 other world leaders attended the first day of the virtual Earth Day Summit to discuss the future of our planet.

Biden administration’s ‘Leaders Summit on Climate’ was live-streamed on April 22nd and continues today on April 23rd. It is the first of its kind to be convened by US President Biden, who was joined by world leaders such as Germany’s Angela Merkel, Canada’s Justin Trudeau, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, India’s Narendra Modi, China’s Xi Jinping, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, and many more.

The two-day summit is held at a crucial time when climate change is at the forefront of everyone’s thoughts, and scientists are warning of dangerously rising temperatures. 

The US on climate change

President Joe Biden pledged the United States to slash the greenhouse gas emissions by half by 2030. While the impact of such an aggressive pledge would be a great stride towards a healthier planet, honouring the promise would change the way that people in America drive to work, heat their homes, and operate their facilities.  

In order to achieve at least 50% fewer emissions by 2030, most of the cars would have to be electrically powered, all coal-fuelled power plants would have to be shut down, the number of solar panels and wind turbines would have to quadruple, and many more forests would have to exist.

In theory, it is possible to meet the commitments that President Joe Biden made. However, it would be very challenging as it would require countless new federal policies which would be challenged by Congress or courts.

Russia on climate change

Mr Putin saw an awkward introduction into the summit when the US summit hosts cut France’s President Macron mid-speech and began to introduce Russia’s president. US Secretary of State apologized shortly after and explained that there were some technical glitches. 

President Putin made a promise to “significantly reduce the net accumulated emissions in our country by 2050” and that the Sakhalin region would become carbon neutral by 2025. However, he also commented that when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, we shouldn’t only pay attention to how a country emits them but also how much it absorbs. President Putin argued that due to the vast capacity of Russia’s ecosystem, the country absorbs 2.5 billion tons of Co2 equivalent per year. His views about the absorption of greenhouse emissions do not seem to resonate with his European and American counterparts.

China on climate China 

China’s leader, President Xi Jinping, made a commitment that his country would impose stricter limitations on increasing coal consumption over the next five years and phase it down even more after that. Considering that China is the world’s largest coal consumer, this pledge is no small feat. Coal is one of the dirtiest fossil fuels because it contains large amounts of toxic heavy metals and chemicals. China reaffirmed that it still intends to reach carbon neutrality by 2060.

Mr Xi did explain that developing countries such as China were a little late to the party and as such should be afforded later deadlines, but that “China looks forward to working with the international community, including with the United States” on reducing planet-warming.