Session 1: Raising Our Climate Ambition
President Biden began Session 1 (“Raising Our Climate Ambition”) by framing enhanced climate action as necessary both to address the crisis and to promote economic opportunity, including the creation of good-paying, union jobs. He told Summit participants that the United States will halve its greenhouse gas emissions within this decade, noting that countries that take decisive action now will reap the economic benefits of a clean energy future. To enshrine this commitment, the United States submitted a new “nationally determined contribution” (NDC) under the Paris Agreement setting an economy-wide emissions target of a 50-52% reduction below 2005 levels in 2030. Secretary of State Blinken conveyed a strong sense of urgency in tackling the climate crisis, noting that this is a critical year and a decisive decade to take action. He noted the U.S. resolve to work with other countries to engage in all avenues of cooperation to “save our planet.”
Participants noted the need to work rapidly over the course of this decade to accelerate decarbonization efforts and are taking a range of actions to that end. Announcements during this Session included, among others:
- Japan will cut emissions 46-50% below 2013 levels by 2030, with strong efforts toward achieving a 50% reduction, a significant acceleration from its existing 26% reduction goal.
- Canada will strengthen its NDC to a 40-45% reduction from 2005 levels by 2030, a significant increase over its previous target to reduce emissions 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.
- India reiterated its target of 450 GW of renewable energy by 2030 and announced the launch of the “U.S.-India 2030 Climate and Clean Energy Agenda 2030 Partnership” to mobilize finance and speed clean energy innovation and deployment this decade.
- Argentina will strengthen its NDC, deploy more renewables, reduce methane emissions, and end illegal deforestation.
- The United Kingdom will embed in law a 78% GHG reduction below 1990 levels by 2035.
- The European Union is putting into law a target of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 and a net zero target by 2050.
- The Republic of Korea, which will host the 2021 P4G Seoul Summit in May, will terminate public overseas coal finance and strengthen its NDC this year to be consistent with its 2050 net zero goal.
- China indicated that it will join the Kigali Amendment, strengthen the control of non-CO2 greenhouse gases, strictly control coal-fired power generation projects, and phase down coal consumption.
- Brazil committed to achieve net zero by 2050, end illegal deforestation by 2030, and double funding for deforestation enforcement.
- South Africa announced that it intends to strengthen its NDC and shift its intended emissions peak year ten years earlier to 2025.
- Russia noted the importance of carbon capture and storage from all sources, as well as atmospheric carbon removals. It also highlighted the importance of methane and called for international collaboration to address this powerful greenhouse gas.
Session 2: Investing in Climate Solutions
Session 2 (“Investing in Climate Solutions”) addressed the urgent need to scale up climate finance, including both efforts to increase public finance for mitigation and adaptation in developing countries and efforts to catalyze trillions of dollars of private investment to support the transition to net zero emissions no later than 2050. President Biden stressed the importance of developed countries meeting the collective goal of mobilizing $100 billion per year in public and private finance to support developing countries. He also announced that the Administration intends to seek funding to double, by 2024, annual U.S. public climate finance to developing countries, compared to the average level of the second half of the Obama-Biden Administration (FY 2013-2016). This would include tripling public finance for adaptation by 2024. President Biden also called for an end to fossil fuel subsidies and announced that his Administration will undertake a series of steps to promote the measurement, disclosure, and mitigation of material climate risks to the financial system.
Treasury Secretary Yellen highlighted the role of multilateral development banks in supporting the transition. She also said that the Treasury Department will use all its tools and expertise to help support climate action. Special Envoy Kerry moderated a discussion among leaders from government, international organizations, and multilateral and private financial institutions. These leaders noted the importance of concessional finance to leverage much larger sums of private capital, as well as to provide finance to technologies, activities, and geographies where private capital is not flowing. They noted the urgent need to increase finance for adaptation and resilience in developing countries. The participants also recognized the need for governments to embrace key policies, including meaningful carbon pricing, enhanced disclosure of climate-related risks, and phasing out fossil fuel subsidies. Several of the private financial institutions expressed their support for coalitions such as the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero and the Net Zero Banking Alliance. They also referred to recent commitments by U.S. banks to invest $4.16 trillion in climate solutions over the next ten years.
Session 3: Breakout Sessions
Session 3 elevated four specific topics for more focused consideration by government officials and, in some cases, a broader range of stakeholders.
Adaptation and Resilience
The discussion on adaptation and resilience, hosted by Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack and Secretary of Homeland Security Mayorkas, focused on innovative ways in which countries from a wide variety of regions are responding to climate change in the areas of water and coastal management, food security, and human impacts. On the theme of coastal and water management, panelists offered up innovative solutions to prepare for water-related climate challenges, such as locally-owned disaster insurance instruments, relocation, and the use of green and blue bonds to finance nature-based solutions. Focusing on food security and climate, participants highlighted the need for better technology to address a changing agricultural landscape as well as the importance of supporting small-scale farmers. On human health and security, the discussion centered on scaling up locally-led solutions to climate vulnerability, emphasizing that economic opportunities are key to keeping communities healthy and stable. The session emphasized that adaptation and mitigation go hand in hand.
Climate Action at All Levels
The discussion on climate action at all levels, hosted by U.S. EPA Administrator Regan and including participation from a wide range of governors, mayors, and indigenous leaders from around the world, illustrated the importance of marshalling a multi-level “all-of-society” approach to climate action. The Session showcased States, cities, and indigenous groups that are committed to an equitable vision for advancing bold climate ambition and building resilience on the ground. Participants discussed the critical importance of building just and inclusive societies and economies as they accelerate efforts to transform their communities in line with limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Participants discussed not only the importance of leadership at all levels of society and government, but also the importance of collaboration between national and subnational governments to catalyze additional ambition.
The discussion on climate security was hosted by Defense Secretary Austin. His remarks were followed by remarks from both Director of National Intelligence Haines and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Thomas-Greenfield, who then moderated a panel discussion. Speakers included NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg, defense officials from Iraq, Japan, Kenya, Spain, and the UK, as well as the Philippines’ finance minister. A common theme throughout the discussion was how climate impacts exacerbate security concerns and, as a result, affect military capabilities, heighten geopolitical competition, undermine stability, and provoke regional conflicts. Participants further emphasized that their nations and regions are vulnerable to extreme weather events, including sea level rise, cyclones, typhoons, drought, and increasing temperatures. All of these intensify underlying political, social, and economic conditions, which in turn can lead to food insecurity and water scarcity, violent extremism, and mass population movement, with disproportionate effects on vulnerable populations, especially women. Defense officials noted that their ministries are increasingly called upon to respond to disasters, which taxes their resources, thus elevating the need for enhanced disaster preparedness and response. In looking at their own operations and readiness, they showcased current efforts to decrease their militaries’ emissions, emphasizing how incorporating climate considerations into their operational planning can increase the agility of their forces. Additionally, they described the benefits of collaboration between defense ministries on shared climate risks. Participants highlighted the NATO climate security action plan and called on countries to incorporate climate considerations more broadly into multilateral fora, including UN peacekeeping missions. Perhaps most noteworthy, this was the first-ever U.S. Secretary of Defense convening of Secretaries of Defense focused on climate change.
The discussion on nature-based solutions, hosted by Interior Secretary Haaland, addressed how achieving net zero by 2050 is not possible without natural climate solutions, such as stopping deforestation and the loss of wetlands and restoring marine and terrestrial ecosystems. She announced U.S. support of a proposal to protect the Southern Ocean through the three marine protected area proposals under the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). All participants highlighted their support for protecting and conserving land and marine areas to sequester carbon and build climate resilience, and several made announcements. Seychelles is dedicating a chapter of its enhanced NDC to ocean-based solutions and is committing to protect at least 50% of its seagrass and mangrove ecosystems by 2025 and 100% by 2030, with support. Canada, for its part, is committing $4 billion in its new federal budget for land and ocean protection. In addition, Costa Rica underlined its co-leadership of the High-Ambition Coalition for Nature and People and the intention to have 30% of its ocean under protection by 2022; Peru highlighted that more than a fifth of its NDC measures are associated with nature-based solutions; Indonesia discussed its Presidential decree to permanently freeze new license for logging and peatland utilization, as well as its mangrove rehabilitation program; and Gabon noted that its intact and logged forests absorb four times more CO2 annually than its total emissions across all sectors. Representatives of the Global Alliance of Territorial Communities and of the Kharia Tribe of India highlighted the need to recognize the contributions and traditional knowledge of local and indigenous communities in ecosystem protection.