Joe Biden pledged $1bn in new US funding to help developing countries cope with climate change and urged development banks to step up their lending, at a virtual gathering of leaders of the world’s biggest industrialised nations that included China’s climate envoy.
At the meeting of the Major Economies Forum on energy and climate on Thursday, Biden announced the plan to contribute the money to the UN-led Green Climate Fund, which finances clean energy and climate resilience projects in developing countries.
Separately, he promised $500mn over five years for a fund to tackle deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, watched by Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The financial pledge for the Amazon Fund would require approval from the US Congress, however. Republican lawmakers have opposed Biden’s previous efforts to boost US international climate funding.
Alongside offering the US funding, Biden stepped up pressure on incoming World Bank president Ajay Banga, the US nominee for the role, by calling on all multilateral development banks to scale up their lending to tackle climate change, adding it would “also” accelerate the fight against poverty.
The US recently put forward the former Mastercard chief executive as its candidate to lead the World Bank after David Malpass resigned from his post almost a year early after controversy over his lack of conviction on climate change.
The bank is under sustained criticism for failing to adequately address the scale of the global climate crisis while maintaining its mission to reduce poverty.
According to the White House, the more than 25 countries taking part in the fourth Biden energy and climate forum account for 80 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
China’s climate envoy, Xie Zhenhua, was in attendance, the White House confirmed, despite increasing geopolitical tensions between the two countries that had disrupted discussions over climate co-operation.
“We have to step up our ambitions,” said Biden, speaking from the White House ahead of the meeting. “We’re going to have to stand together and meet great challenges . . . we will preserve our planet in the future.
“We’re willing to do the hard work to limit global warming to 1.5C, that’s what today is all about: coming together and candidly discussing how we can bridge the gap between our pledge to limit warming to 1.5 degrees and our policies,” said Biden.
He called on the gathered nations to “show up” at the UN COP28 summit in the UAE later this year with improved 2030 climate targets.
The US has committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 50-52 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
UN secretary-general António Guterres said that present policies would make the world 2.8C hotter by the end of the century, representing “a death sentence”, but could be limited to 1.5C with a quantum leap in action.
“Geopolitical divisions must not torpedo the world’s climate fight for 1.5 degrees,” he told the leaders, adding that the fight “will be won or lost on your watch”.