President Biden on Tuesday led about half of the world’s countries in committing to stop deforestation and reduce methane emissions — seeking foreign policy wins at a climate conference in Scotland amid a stalled agenda at home.
But major countries sat out the methane pledge, including China, which is the world’s top methane emitter by far. Of the top six methane emitters, only the US signed on — with India, Indonesia, Iran and Australia also sitting it out.
The forestry pledge, meanwhile, featured countries that own more than 80 percent of the world’s forests and included Brazil, Russia, China and large African countries such as Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Biden took a victory lap Tuesday, saying the methane pledge featured commitments from countries responsible for “nearly half of global methane emissions and 70 percent of the global GDP.”
“It’s one the most potent greenhouse gases there is. It amounts to about half of the warming we’re experiencing today,” Biden said at the conference, known as COP26, in Glasgow.
Biden said his administration will seek to lower methane emissions through new initiatives to prevent methane leaks from oil and gas pipelines and to encourage farms to lower methane emissions.
Methane is present in cows’ digestive systems and in landfill waste and oil and gas production. It doesn’t last as long as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and accounts for only 20 percent of global emissions, but it has 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide.
Biden on Tuesday also hosted a roundtable on the Build Back Better World initiative that was attended by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida — as his own “Build Back Better” branded legislation stalls in Congress due to qualms from centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV).
The president said the leaders at the summit can prove that democracy is strong by supporting infrastructure projects in the developing world.
“We offer a positive alternative to debt traps and corruption. We can hold entire countries back if we don’t do that. Transparency is critically important. And by assisting and responding to the needs of developing countries, rather than dictating projects from afar, we can deliver the greatest impact for those who need it the most,” Biden said.
“By coming together to make a difference in the lives of people all around the world, you have to show — and I think we will show — that democracy is still the best way for delivering results,” the president continued.
Johnson hailed the agreements to stop deforestation and cut methane, saying combating climate change and protecting the environment go hand in hand.
“We can’t deal with the devastating loss of habitats and species without tackling climate change, and we can’t deal with climate change without protecting our natural environment and protecting the rights of indigenous people who are its stewards,” he said.
Forests play a critical role in absorbing carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, from the atmosphere.
“Conserving our forests and other critical ecosystems is indispensable — an indispensable piece of keeping our climate goals within reach as well as many other key priorities that we have together: ensuring clean water, maintaining biodiversity, supporting rural and Indigenous communities, and reducing the risk of the spread of disease,” said Biden, who appeared to nod off for a while at Monday’s session.
On Monday evening, the first day of the summit, the leaders attended a royal reception at Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.
The 95-year-old Queen Elizabeth II was unable to attend the climate conference on advice from doctors to rest, but she addressed the gathering in a video message, imploring them to “rise above the politics of the moment.”
“I, for one, hope that this conference will be one of those rare occasions where everyone will have the chance to rise above the politics of the moment, and achieve true statesmanship,” she said in the message recorded last week at Windsor Castle. “History has shown that when nations come together in common cause, there is always room for hope.”
The Queen said ”the time for words has now moved to the time for action,” and reminded the world leaders of their responsibility to future generations.
”It is the hope of many that the legacy of this summit — written in history books yet to be printed — will describe you as the leaders who did not pass up the opportunity; and that you answered the call of those future generations,” she said.
”The benefits of such actions will not be there to enjoy for all of us here today: We, none of us will live forever. But we are doing this not for ourselves but for our children and our children’s children,” the Queen continued.
Johnson hailed her son Prince Charles for his years-long work in sounding the alarms on the effects of climate change.
”You heard me earlier on say this was a job for James Bond. Well, we have somebody who drives an electric Aston Martin who has a plan to defuse the ticking time bomb,” he said of the prince, who was in attendance.
”l just want to say you’re a prophet without honor and you’ve been right for a very long time,” the prime minister continued.
With Post wires