Key takeaways from the Biden Earth Day summit


U.S. President Joe Biden is seen on the screen as European Council President Charles Michel attends a virtual U.S. global climate summit, in Brussels, Belgium, April 22, 2021. REUTERS/Johanna Geron/Pool

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Dozens of world leaders are joining CEOs, activists and Pope Francis for a two-day virtual summit that started Thursday on reducing climate change hosted by U.S. President Joe Biden.

Here's the key news so far:

THE U.S. GALLOPS OUT OF THE GATE

The United States met global expectations by pledging to halve its emissions by 2030 from 2005 levels – nearly doubling the last pledge made under former President Barack Obama.

Washington also intends to double its annual public climate finance to developing countries by 2024, compared with spending under Obama in 2013-2016.

"This is the decade we must make decisions that will avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis," Biden said at the White House. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen pledged a day earlier to aggressively tackle climate change using all the tools at her disposal.

CHINA TO QUIT COAL

President Xi Jinping told the summit his country would begin phasing out coal use over 2026-2030 as part of its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Last year, Xi had said China would aim to become carbon neutral by 2060.

"We will strictly control coal-fired power generation projects," Xi said through the summit’s video link. He suggested that China's coal consumption, by far the highest in the world, will reach a peak in 2025 and start to fall thereafter.

SOUTH KOREA TO STOP FUNDING COAL OVERSEAS

President Moon Jae-in said South Korea would end all new financing for overseas coal projects and will soon set a more ambitious schedule for slashing carbon emissions, making official parts of a "Green New Deal" proposed by Moon’s ruling party last year.

JAPAN, CANADA BEEF UP THEIR TARGETS

Japan raised its 2030 emissions reduction target from 26% to 46% below 2013 levels and pledged to continue to push for a 50% cut over the next decade. Unlike South Korea, Japan did not pledge to halt its finance of coal projects overseas although some experts said that could be announced later this year.

Canada raised its previous target of a 30% reduction below 2005 levels by 2030 to a range of 40%-45% below that same baseline. "We will continually strengthen our plan and take even more actions on our journey to net zero by 2050," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

BRAZIL CHANGES ITS TONE

Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro appeared to shift his position on environmental protection, pledging Brazil would reach climate neutrality by 2050 - 10 years earlier than previously pledged. He also repeated a promise made last week to end illegal deforestation by 2030.

"With this spirit of collective responsibility and common destiny, I invite you once again to support us in this mission," Bolsonaro told the summit. Deforestation has soared under Bolsonaro, hitting a 12-year high in 2020 with an area 14 times the size of New York City destroyed.

A DIRE GLOBAL WARNING

As world leaders sped through speeches at the summit, a new report warned that the global economy could lose nearly a fifth of its economic output by 2050 if climate change continues unchecked and average temperatures rise 3.2 degrees Celsius beyond pre-industrial temperatures.

"Economies in Asia would be hardest hit, with China at risk of losing nearly 24% of its GDP in a severe scenario, while the world's biggest economy, the U.S., stands to lose close to 10%, and Europe almost 11%," the Swiss Re Institute report found.

(Reporting by Valerie Vocovici, Jeff Mason, Josh Smith, Andrea Shalal, Michael Shields; Editing by Katy Daigle, Heather Timmons and Lisa Shumaker)

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