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Sept. 18, 2021, 3:41 p.m. EDT

Biden warns climate forum of ‘point of no return’ without bolder action, agrees to methane cuts

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Rachel Koning Beals

President Joe Biden on Friday urged all nations to act to slow climate change or risk getting dangerously close to “a point of no return,” as pressure to replace pledges with action rises ahead of the highly anticipated November global climate-change conference in Glasgow.

“The time to act is really narrowing … to get too close to a point of no return, we don’t have a lot of time,” Biden said. “So we have to act, all of us. We have to act, and we have to act now.”

As expected, Biden confirmed a pact between the U.S. and the European Union to cut emissions of planet-warming methane gas by roughly a third by the end of this decade as compared with 2020 emissions.

Biden was reconvening what he calls the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate (MEF), an effort launched last Earth Day.

John Kerry, Biden’s special envoy on climate, has said that the Glasgow meetings, known as COP26, are key for the world powers to act to help the developing world and ward off the sharpest effects of climate change.

Under the previous Paris deal, nations vowed to prevent the world’s average temperature rising 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels in order to avoid deadly and destructive heatwaves, flooding, storms, drought, fire, coastal erosion and other consequences that are already populating headlines.

Read: Giant sequoias wrapped with flame-resistant blankets as wildfires advance

But  new analysis out this week by Climate Action Tracker  finds almost every country is falling short in curbing emissions of heat-trapping gases and other actions that will help them reach the commitment in a reasonable timeframe. Only one industrialized economy — the U.K. — is close to significantly slowing its emissions and financing cleaner energy for poorer countries.

After the Earth Day summit, enough nations had promised large enough carbon-pollution cuts that the Climate Action Tracker’s “emissions gap” — the difference between emissions projections with pledges and what’s required to meet the 1.5-degrees goal — dropped 11%. But Bill Hare, CEO of Climate Analytics, said momentum has since slowed.

Financial assistance for developing nations is newly emphasized in the tracker update. The U.S. and the European Union were marked down because of that category.

Top leadership from China, the world’s largest carbon emitter, and India, which is the third largest polluter behind the U.S., did not participate. Kerry later held a ministerial-level discussion with environmental policy heads from China, India, Russia and Germany.

China has set ambitious targets to reach carbon neutrality by 2060. But details on how it will get there have been spotty, and data show it has kept up coal production even while pushing electric vehicles. Republicans who contend Biden puts too much climate-change responsibility on the U.S. alone often point to China in their argument.

China is expected to be a Glasgow participant, though Chinese officials have warned Kerry that friction over trade between the two powers could impact cooperation on climate change .

See: U.S. nuclear-submarine pact with U.K. and Australia faces criticism from Paris and Beijing as it reshapes Indo-Pacific relations

Methane deal confirmed

The pact to cut methane emissions was first leaked earlier this week . The agreement, the first ever to specifically target methane, is seen as a major preliminary step ahead of Glasgow.

Methane is some 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide, CO, but remains in the atmosphere for a shorter period, about a decade. Methane rules could have a significant impact on the energy CL00 , agriculture and waste industries, which are responsible for the bulk of such emissions.

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