On September 17, 2021, President Biden convened the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate (MEF) as a follow-up to the convening of this group during his Leaders Summit on Climate in April. Participants underlined the urgency of building climate ambitions in the run-up to the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP 26) in Glasgow and beyond, and many announced their support for a global methane commitment to be launched at COP 26 target.
At the April Summit of Heads of State and Government, MEF leaders and other participants emphasized the importance of strengthening climate ambitions on the way to COP 26. Some heads of state and government announced higher ambitions at the time, including new or updated nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement. Others said announcements would be made at a later date.
President Biden was elected on September 17 by Heads of State and Government from Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, the European Commission, the European Council, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico and Great Britain and the United Secretary General. The President’s Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry chaired a ministerial meeting with China, Germany, India and Russia.
U.S. Secretary of State Blinken opened the meeting with a summary of the latest findings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which clearly underscored the rising prevalence of climate-related disasters and the strong prospect of far more serious consequences in the coming decades without urgent action. Calling recent climate-related events a “flashing red code”, President Biden noted that time to act is becoming increasingly scarce – “to the point of no going back.”
Prime Minister Hasina of Bangladesh, who represents the Climate Vulnerable Forum, stressed the significant impact that vulnerable countries are facing and the importance of the transition from “climate vulnerability to climate resilience to climate prosperity”. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stressed that it is not too late to reach a warming limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius, that countries must rise before COP 26, and that more ambition is needed in terms of containment, adaptation and funding.
The participants then dealt with four topics:
- Further commitments and measures must be taken in the remaining weeks before COP 26 in Glasgow.
- Potential participation in the Global Methane Pledge to be launched at COP 26.
- The importance of a forward-looking COP outcome that reflects the shared commitment of the parties to the Paris Agreement to further strengthen their post-Glasgow ambitions and actions.
- Plans to use the MEF after Glasgow as a starting point for collective, concrete efforts to expand climate protection in the crucial decade of the 2020s.
With regard to further commitments and measures, many emphasized the importance of keeping a limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach and achieving net zero emissions worldwide by the middle of the century. Participants indicated that a variety of additional measures are being taken, including national implementation measures, the intention to increase the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) through COP 26, national and international efforts related to coal, and others. Many also stressed the importance of helping developing countries with climate change, including meeting developed countries’ goal of mobilizing $ 100 billion annually.
Given that methane is a powerful, short-lived climate pollutant that is already responsible for around half of the previous net warming of 1.0 degrees C, the Global Methane Pledge, an initiative jointly initiated by the United States and the European Union, include a common goal of reducing global methane emissions by at least 30 percent below the 2020 level by 2030 and implementing appropriate measures domestically. The meeting recognized the importance of rapidly reducing methane emissions, and many MEF members including the European Union, Argentina, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, the United Kingdom and the United States expressed their intention to join. It has been reported that non-MEF countries, including Ghana and Iraq, have also signaled their intention to join the Global Methane Pledge. These early supporters of the pledge include six of the 15 largest methane emitters in the world, together accounting for over a fifth of global methane emissions and nearly half of the global economy.
With regard to COP 26, there was broad agreement on the importance of a successful COP, which not only includes the completion of the Paris “rulebook” and compelling results in the areas of adaptation and funding, but also recognizes the crucial character of the 2020s and the shared commitment The parties to the Paris Agreement continue to reinforce their ambitions to keep a warming limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach.
President Biden also set out US plans to use the MEF at both government and ministerial levels to facilitate targeted efforts similar to the Global Methane Pledge. In the future, the MEF will continue to serve as a high-level political forum to advance key climate-related issues in the world’s major economies. Given the urgency of additional climate action, President Biden said he also plans to strengthen the MEF’s role as a platform for launching collaborative efforts that accelerate concrete action. Such actions will include multiple tracks focusing on key areas including energy, industry, land and sea. The United States plans to launch this effort with a meeting of MEF ministers in January 2022 to discuss clean energy goals in the energy, transportation, industry and buildings sectors. President Biden also said he plans to convene MEF leaders again to take stock of progress.
In his closing remarks, President Kerry’s special envoy named the Global Methane Pledge as an important contribution to overcoming the climate crisis and as an example of practical approaches for transformative action. He stressed the urgency of action in the 2020s and urged countries to seize every opportunity, including the upcoming G20 summit in Rome, to develop further ambitions ahead of the COP 26 in Glasgow.
- President Alberto Fernandez, Republic of Argentina
- Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Commonwealth of Australia
- Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, People’s Republic of Bangladesh
- President Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission
- President Charles Michel, European Council
- President Joko Widodo, Republic of Indonesia
- Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Republic of Italy
- Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Japan
- President Moon Jae-in, Republic of Korea
- President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, United Mexican States
- Prime Minister Boris Johnson, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
- Secretary General António Guterres, United Nations
- President’s Special Envoy and China’s Special Envoy on Climate Change Xie Zhenhua, People’s Republic of China
- Parliamentary State Secretary in the Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter, Federal Republic of Germany
- Union Cabinet Minister for Labor and Employment, Environment, Forests and Climate Change Bhupender Yadav, India
- President’s Special Envoy for Climate Change Ruslan Edelgeriyev, Russian Federation