WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. President Biden convened world leaders for his administration’s fourth Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, a high-level climate summit aimed at addressing the major outcomes from COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, looking forward to COP28 in Dubai, and highlighting the impact of the Inflation Reduction Act. President Biden announced a variety of global initiatives that recognize the need for diverse climate solutions, including efforts to accelerate carbon management technologies and reduce emissions from the transportation sector.
“World leaders are beginning to recognize the scale of the climate challenge and the wide range of solutions and strategies we’ll need to address it, from carbon management to methane mitigation to innovation to decarbonize shipping, and more. It is only through pursuing multiple, interconnected strategies that we can hope to mitigate the inherent risks of the global decarbonization challenge,” said Armond Cohen, Executive Director of Clean Air Task Force.
“The discussion at today’s Major Economies Forum was most notable for its breadth, which is already a step forward, but it’s important to remember that we’re behind the curve on many of these solutions. In order to make them work at global scale, we need to get started as soon as possible – and that means prioritizing action over promises.”
The countries that take part in the Forum account for about 80% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and gross domestic product. Participants joined virtually to hear announcements from President Biden, analysis from the International Energy Agency, and a statement from the European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, in which she previewed an EU-led effort to secure global targets for energy efficiency and renewable energy deployment in time for COP28.
The Major Economies Forum contained multiple announcements that will have impact on global climate policy. Our expert teams provide their initial reactions on those below.
Climate finance for developing countries
The Biden administration’s decision to contribute another $1 billion to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) is a welcome step. To drive real change, however, concerted effort is needed to ensure that these funds are accessible to the developing countries that need them the most in an efficient and timely manner and support high impact projects with tangible adaptation, mitigation, and local development benefits. Streamlining GCF project application, approval, and disbursement procedures alongside building local capacity and enabling environments for project success in developing countries will be helpful complements to the Fund’s boost.
“COP27 saw a symbolic breakthrough in openness to climate funding for the developing world, and Biden’s announcement adds some meat on the bone,” said Lily Odarno, CATF’s Director of Energy and Climate Innovation, Africa. “In turn, it is up to leaders in the developing world to stress that any discussion of global climate action is done so with poorer nations’ economic development at the heart of the conversation.”
Decarbonizing international shipping
The global maritime sector emits more than a billion tons of climate-warming pollution every year, accounting for 2-3% of total anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.
“Although the shipping industry, like every other major sector of the economy, needs to chart a path to full decarbonization by midcentury, the steps it has taken to-date have not been consistent with that requirement,” said Jonathan Lewis, Director of Transportation Decarbonization. “Case in point: in 2018, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) announced that the sector would aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from marine vessels by at least 50% by — a literal half-measure.”
Aligning the IMO midcentury target with broader climate change mitigation obligations has been a major priority for CATF and other organizations. Dozens of countries — including those in the EU-27 bloc, Britain, the Marshall Islands, and Japan — have called on the shipping sector to target either zero or net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Today’s announcement by the Biden administration that it will partner with other countries this year to push the IMO to adopt a goal of “zero emissions from international shipping no later than 2050” is a critically important step.
Methane Finance Sprint
In September 2021, President Biden and EU President Ursula von der Leyen used the Major Economies Forum to announce the Global Methane Pledge. Today, President Biden is taking the next critical step to support developing countries to implement the Global Methane Pledge by inviting other countries to join the United States in a new Methane Finance Sprint that aims to raise at least $200M in new public and philanthropic donor support for developing countries by COP28.
While a large share of methane mitigation investments and emissions reductions can be encouraged and/or required through government policies, particularly in developed countries, scaled-up international financial support is essential to overcome barriers to private sector investment across the nearly 100 Global Methane Pledge signatories eligible for overseas development assistance.
“In the near-term, financial support will especially be needed to develop robust methane mitigation project pipelines for waste, agriculture, and energy projects,” said Jonathan Banks, Global Director, Methane Pollution Prevention. “Longer-term, methane finance can help ensure that development projects systematically optimize for methane mitigation. Attention will also be needed to overcome structural barriers that impede such projects within development institutions.”
COP28 Carbon Management Challenge
Carbon capture and storage is a critical decarbonization tool needed to meet our climate goals. There is overwhelming consensus among leading climate scientists, economists and energy systems experts that carbon capture, removal and storage technologies are essential tools needed to cut carbon pollution. It is also a key technology to allow the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
“In order to meet our climate targets, it is imperative that we accelerate the deployment of carbon capture,” said Ben Longstreth, Global Director, Carbon Capture. “The proposed Carbon Management Challenge can be the accelerator that carbon management needs by providing an opportunity for countries to collaborate on the scale up of carbon capture and start the process of cutting the carbon emissions from unabated fossil plants. We look forward to working with this initiative to ensure that the challenge results in actual deployment of carbon management at the scale needed.”
The road to COP28
The Forum is a major milestone ahead of COP28, setting the table for what could become a pivotal conference. The UNFCCC’s Global Stocktake will provide an honest assessment of progress to date, exposing the shortcomings of the status quo, underlining the need for accountability, and highlighting the urgent need to expand the current frameworks and approach to climate solutions. COP28 will provide the starkest presentation of the world’s insufficient progress since Paris and will require a sober assessment of if and how the 1.5 degree target can be met, and how action to 2030 can be both more effective and more resilient.
“Today’s Forum offers a promising signpost ahead of COP28 later this year in Dubai, where we must finally move from pledges to planning, and see actionable commitments and plans for scaling critical climate technologies, and enabling rapid clean development in emerging economies,” said Lee Beck, Senior Director for Europe and the Middle East. “Alongside the Global Stocktake must come new standards of accountability, for both industry and governments, including measurable plans for action, funding, and deployment instead of an ever-increasing list of headline ambitions and commitments.”
About Clean Air Task Force
Clean Air Task Force (CATF) is a global nonprofit organization working to safeguard against the worst impacts of climate change by catalyzing the rapid development and deployment of low-carbon energy and other climate-protecting technologies. With 25 years of internationally recognized expertise on climate policy and a fierce commitment to exploring all potential solutions, CATF is a pragmatic, non-ideological advocacy group with the bold ideas needed to address climate change. CATF has offices in Boston, Washington D.C., and Brussels, with staff working virtually around the world. Visit catf.us and follow @cleanaircatf.