By Lisa Friedman
President Biden will virtually convene on Friday some of the leaders of the nations most responsible for climate change, urging them to do more to slash greenhouse gas emissions ahead of a critical United Nations summit in November.
Mr. Biden also will urge other countries to sign onto a global goal of reducing methane, the main component of natural gas and an extremely powerful greenhouse gas, a White House official said, speaking to reporters on a background call on the condition of anonymity.
Countries that sign on to the “global methane pledge” hammered out by the United States and Europe would agree to work together to reduce global methane emissions by at least 30 percent by 2030, according to European and United States climate negotiators who were not authorized to discuss details of the plan publicly.
“We’re trying to get people to join into a global effort to try to cope with methane,” John Kerry, Mr. Biden’s climate change envoy, said in an interview over the weekend, adding, “It’s hugely destructive. It accelerates the rate of global damage.”
Carbon dioxide is the biggest driver of climate change, but methane is more potent in the shorter term, warming the atmosphere more than 80 times as much as the same amount of carbon dioxide does over a 20-year period.
Karen Harbert, president and chief executive of the American Gas Association, said in a statement that natural gas utilities in the United States are “all in” when it comes to addressing climate change, but did not comment directly on the methane challenge.
The meeting will be the second this year of the Major Economies Forum, which Mr. Biden revived after former President Donald J. Trump’s withdrawal from the forum and the Paris climate agreement. Mr. Biden rejoined the climate accord when he entered office.
The White House did not release a list of attendees, but the Major Economies Forum traditionally includes a mix of wealthy European nations and major emerging economies. It is not clear if officials from China, the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, will attend on Friday, but the country’s president, Xi Jinping, attended the first summit in April.
The discussions come less than six weeks before talks in Glasgow, where nations that promised in Paris to stave off the worst consequences of climate change will be expected to show what they’ve done and pledge even more ambitious goals.
The Biden administration has promised to cut emissions 50 to 52 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. Getting there though depends on passage of a $3.5 trillion budget bill that includes a policy to substantially cut fossil fuel pollution by the power sector. That legislation is facing an uphill battle in Congress.
China and India have not yet pledged deeper emissions cuts, and the Biden administration has been leaning on both countries to do so.
The United Nations’ top climate science body found this year that the world has already baked in a hotter future and that global warming is likely to rise around 1.5 degrees Celsius within the next two decades. Keeping temperatures below that threshold is critical to avoiding the worst consequences of climate change, and the window to enact strong policies is closing.
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