Political momentum for climate action cracks open after Climate Leaders Summit today

Posted on April, 22 2021

Structural decarbonization measures across the board now needed to meet Paris goals, says WWF.

(22 April 2021) - Today, US President Biden sent a clear message about what he expected from the world leaders attending the virtual Leaders Summit on Climate when he announced a game-changing emissions target for the US


The U.S. said it would cut emissions by 50-52% by 2030 from 2005 levels, nearly doubling its previous commitment for 2025. This is a historical increase, an unequivocal and very welcome signal of the leading role the US intends to play in climate geopolitics, and a clear motivator for action by fellow big-emitters. 


WWF-US Senior Vice President for Climate Change Marcene Mitchell said: “This commitment shows how far we have come as a nation, and it shows what strong and sustained action by cities, sub-national states, communities, businesses, and other institutions can make possible. I hope that this commitment will inspire other big emitters to go further to halve their emissions and make tangible sectoral change by 2030 on a path to full decarbonization by mid-century.”  


Some world leaders responded positively, and it’s clear that many others are getting ready to respond to the scale of the climate crisis we face.


Concrete new announcements include Canada's new target to decrease emissions by 40-45% from 2005 by 2030, the EU earmarking 1.3 trillion euro for climate goals, including nature-based solutions, Japan announcing a 46% reduction goal by 2030 (compared to 2013) and South Korea commitment to end public finance for overseas coal powered plants and halt permits for any further domestic coal plants. On its part, China said it will control coal-fired power generation projects, as well as strictly limit the increase in coal consumption, in the 2021-2025 period, and phase it down in the 2026-2030 period. South Africa said it will bring forward the plan to peak and plateau emissions in 2025 and decline from 2035 to a decline from 2025.


Other highlights were New Zealand’s compelling call for the elimination of fossil fuels and fossil fuel subsidies, and the African Development Bank being recognized as the first multilateral bank to meet, and exceed, the 50% target of finance for adaptation. 


Emerging themes in the leaders' speeches included a potential revamp of  debt-for-nature swaps with a focus on adaptation, carbon pricing and green hydrogen production for international markets.


Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, WWF Global Lead Climate and Energy said: “These announcements send the clearest signal yet that the transformation of our various sectors is underway. One of the most evident transformations is in private finance portfolios, which are aligning with climate science. The Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, announced yesterday, brings existing and new net-zero finance initiatives into one sector-wide strategic forum.


“Countries who read these signals and act immediately, will get ahead of the game. They must start with a strong focus on short-term climate plans aligned with Paris goals, which must be delivered, ahead of COP26”. 


A conducive policy environment is essential to enable new private investments to root. Important opportunities for industrialized economies are the upcoming G7 and G20 summits, where structural measures for decarbonization such as the elimination of fossil fuels subsidies, the ramp-up in carbon taxes, and other structural decarbonization measures could be agreed. Big emitting countries must also view strong bilateral and multilateral financial commitments as an essential, complementary piece to their new national commitments, he concluded.


Finance: Many leaders and other speakers recognized the need for increasing finance, and to meet and exceed the $100 billion commitment financing for developing countries from 2020 onwards. But developed countries are not on track to do this, and aside from the US commitment to double their public finance from Obama-era finance, there were no significant new commitments. 

Adaptation: Adaptation needs and advances featured strongly in speeches by developing countries, especially the most vulnerable, while developed countries focused on mitigation targets and measures. Many countries highlighted the need for a 50/50 balance in public finance for adaptation and mitigation. Those speeches, however, were unmatched by much-needed financial commitments for adaptation and loss and damage by developed countries. Those remain a key priority for 2021.

Country statements: 

WWF-India statement by Dr. T.S. Panwar, Director, Climate Change and Energy Programme: “Echoing the Indian Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi’s thoughts, climate action in this decade - at a high speed, on a large scale, and with a global scope is of prime importance as it will shape the future trajectory at the global level. The Indo-US climate and clean energy agenda 2030 partnership announced today, will be helpful in achieving India’s ambitious renewable energy target of 450GW by 2030. One crucial step towards concrete climate action in this decade would be to embrace sustainable lifestyle practices. WWF-India would work towards driving this shift together with various orchestrators in the system.”

Kate Norgrove, Executive Director of Advocacy and Campaigns at WWF UK, said: “As we celebrate Earth Day it is encouraging to see world leaders raise their ambition when it comes to protecting the planet - our one shared home - by strengthening commitments to reduce carbon emissions. This is vital to kick-start momentum. However, with our climate in crisis and nature in free-fall, words need to translate into urgent action. Following the UK’s recent commitment to cut carbon emissions by 78% by 2035, the government must now show global leadership by publishing a comprehensive action plan on how it will reach this new target and net-zero by 2050. This must include introducing a net-zero test for overall government spending to ensure all new investment and policies fully align with the UK’s climate goals.”

Megan Leslie, President and CEO of WWF-Canada said: “Raising Canada’s emissions reduction targets to 45% by 2030 is welcome news, as is the Prime Minister’s acknowledgment of the vital link between protecting nature and fighting climate change. If we’re going to meet these aggressive goals, we can’t talk about climate change without also talking about nature-based climate solutions. Restoring and stewarding ecosystems that capture and hold carbon, and supporting Indigenous-led conservation, are essential to battling our concurrent climate and biodiversity crises.”


New Initiatives statements

WWF International Director General Marco Lambertini said: “Scaling up finance to protect forests and biodiversity is critical to efforts to tackle our connected climate and nature crises. Tropical forests absorb billions of tonnes of carbon each year and host a vast diversity of life forms, while providing multiple other benefits to people locally and globally. The LEAF Coalition is a great example of the kind of innovative and integrated action needed to secure an equitable, net zero, nature-positive future for people and the planet. It is now key to focus on its effective implementation. We need to build on this momentum to set nature on the path to recovery by 2030, in support of climate action. WWF urges government and business leaders to increase financial support and ambitious actions for biodiversity.

For further information, contact Mandy Jean Woods mwoods@wwfint.org
US President Joe Biden speaks at the opening of his Leaders Summit on Climate.
© US State Department