US President Joe Biden on Tuesday accused China of turning its back on the “gigantic” problem of climate change at COP26, marked by a major global promise to produce less methane that does not include the world’s top emitter.
On the third day of the UN climate conference, the leaders of a hundred countries, invited to participate in the hope that their presence will propel a subsequent dialogue that is announced arduous, agreed to cut their emissions by 30% in 2030. this powerful greenhouse gas.
But this does not include China, Russia and India, three of the top five emitters on the planet. And the presidents of the first two countries, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, who had previously shunned the G20 summit in Rome, did not even travel to the Scottish city of Glasgow.
“I think it was a big mistake, frankly, that China did not show up,” Biden said at a press conference, accusing it of “turning its back” on the “gigantic” problem facing the planet.
– Methane Initiative –
Methane (CH4) has a greenhouse effect 80 times more powerful than CO2 and its sources, such as open-cast coal mines and livestock, have received relatively little attention so far.
“It is one of the gases that we can reduce more rapidly,” stressed the president of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen, recalling that it is responsible for “about 30%” of the accumulated global warming since the industrial revolution.
The commitment was signed by a hundred nations, led by the United States and the European Union. But despite the inclusion of large beef producers such as Brazil and Argentina, they only represent 40% of global methane emissions.
“Today’s announcement does not reach the 45% reduction that, according to the UN, is necessary to keep global warming below + 1.5ºC,” lamented Murray Worthy, head of the NGO Global Witness.
Argentina joined in on the promise by emphasizing “the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities” between developed countries, responsible for the vast majority of emissions in the last century, and developing countries.
And its president, Alberto Fernández, asked to guarantee that this will not generate “new forms of protectionism” against its agri-food industry and that the payment of part of its enormous external debt is linked to “the essential investments in green infrastructure that Argentina needs.”
– Complicated negotiations –
Canceled last year due to the pandemic, the COP26’s mission is to develop the 2015 Paris Agreement, which set the main objective of limiting global warming to + 1.5ºC.
However, the negotiations are announced complicated.
“There is still a long way to go,” warned British Prime Minister and conference host Boris Johnson, declaring himself “cautiously optimistic” as leaders began to leave Glasgow and pass the baton to negotiators.
Seeking to give momentum, the heads of state and government promised not only to emit less gases, but also to absorb more by slowing and reversing deforestation and land degradation in 2030.
“Our forests are also nature’s way of capturing carbon, pulling CO2 out of our atmosphere,” Biden said.
“We have to address this issue with the same seriousness as the decarbonization of our economies,” he added.
According to the NGO Global Forest Watch, only in 2020 the destruction of primary forests increased by 12% compared to the previous year despite the economic stoppage due to the pandemic. And in Brazil, the cradle of the largest lung on the planet, it caused a 9.5% increase in greenhouse gas emissions.
China and Russia and even Brazil did join this. The more than 100 countries that signed the initiative represent 85% of the world’s forests.
The agreed measures include supporting activities in developing countries such as the restoration of degraded lands, the fight against forest fires and the defense of the rights of indigenous communities.
And they will be financed with $ 12 billion of public money contributed by 12 countries between 2021 and 2025, plus $ 7.2 billion of private investment by more than 30 global financial institutions.
“It is very important to be carbon neutral but it is also very important to be positive with nature,” said President Iván Duque of Colombia, a country occupied 52% by tropical rainforest and 35% by Amazonian land, which promised to declare 30% of its territory as a protected area in 2022.
It is eight years ahead of schedule, “because we have to act now,” he launched.
Environmental groups denounced the end of deforestation in 2030 as too late and Greenpeace called it a “green light for another decade of forest destruction.”