Day 6 of COP27 was also marked by the speech of US president, Joe Biden in Sharm El-Sheikh. Although developing countries have criticised the ongoing lack of climate funding from the US to nations most at risk from climate risk and loss and damage (an issue having a high profile in Egypt), he was expected to reiterate that the US was back to leading on climate again and laud the US recent action on the climate crisis.
The US president missed the World Leaders Summit at COP27 due to the midterm elections back home. Special tickets were given to each Party and people were waiting two hours before Mr Biden was due to begin speaking amidst extremely tight security measures.
In his speech, President Biden was thanking the Egyptian president for bringing all together at this pivotal moment. On veteran’s day, he praised his climate envoy, John Kerry for being critical in delivering progress on climate change. He continued by discussing the impacts of climate change which have been felt all over the world: “the climate crisis is about human security, economic security, environmental security, national security and the very life of the planet” and then continued by saying that today he wanted to share with the Parties how the US was meeting the challenge of the climate crisis.
When Mr Biden said that they rejoined the Paris climate agreement, he received long and warm applause. He also apologised for pulling out of the Paris Agreement before. Then he continued by listing some of the environmental achievements in the US since he took office: after the past two years, the US has delivered unprecedented progress at home, upgrading the power grid, expanding public transit and rail and building EV charging stations.
“And this summer the US Congress passed the biggest and most important climate bill in the history of our country, the inflation reduction act (IRA),” he said.
There was a huge applause at this point. He continued by saying that the IRA would unleash a new era of clean energy and economic growth and that it was going to spark a cycle of innovation to improve the performance of clean energy technology that will be available to nations worldwide, not just in the US. It will accelerate decarbonisation beyond their borders. It will also shift the paradigm from the US to the rest of the world.
He noted the support for the Kigali agreement (the Kigali Amendment of the Montreal Protocol) and noted the importance of reducing emissions from shipping. Then he reflected on his own long journey of trying to get climate legislation passed.
“I introduced the first piece of climate legislation to US Senate in 1986 and my commitment to this issue has been unwavering,” he recalled. “Today, I can stand as president of the US and can say with confidence we will meet our emission reduction targets by 2030. We’re going to fight to see our climate objectives are fully funded.”
Then he announced new financial support of 100 million US dollars for the adaptation of early warning systems in Africa, for strengthening food security and supporting a new training centre in Egypt to transition to renewables across the continent.
“I know this has been a difficult few years, the interconnected challenges we face seem all-consuming”, the Presidetn continued. Referring to the present geopolitical situation he said that against this backdrop it was more important than ever to double down on our climate commitments.
He also urged the audience: “let’s build on global climate progress. The science is devastatingly clear, we need to make vital progress by the end of this decade.”
Then he continued his speech by raising attention to the urgent need to reduce methane, that is, cutting methane by at least 30 per cent by 2030, which can be humanity’s best chance to keep in reach of the 1.5°C target. To give some background information, on the very same day at COP27, the so-called Decarbonisation Day, the United Nations Environmental Program unveiled the satellite-based Methane Alert and Response System (MARS) to cut down on the potent greenhouse gas, methane, a major contributor to global warming. Mr Biden added that there would now be new regulations on methane in the US and all these steps would reduce US methane emissions from cover sources by 87 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
He was speaking about the natural world and land use. “Forests are more valuable when they are preserved than when they are destroyed,” he said, calling for a slowdown in deforestation.
In the end, he said that if we were to win this fight, we can no longer plead ignorance to the consequence of our actions and repeat our mistakes and that if we could accelerate actions on these game changers, we could reach our goal. But to permanently bend the emissions curve, every nation must step up.
“The US has acted, everyone has to act, it’s a duty and responsibility of global leadership,” President Biden pointed out.
Just to wrap up he paid tribute to the young people who campaign on climate change: “young people feel the urgency of climate and feel it deeply. They won’t allow us to fail.”
He wound up by saying: “Let’s reach out and take the future in our hands. A planet preserved, a more equitable, prosperous world for our children, that is why we are here, that is what we are working towards. I’m confident we can do it. Thank you, and may God bless you all.”
Photo: Official page of COP27.
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