On September 17, 2021, President Biden convened the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate (MEF), as a follow-up to the convening of that group during his Leaders Summit on Climate in April. Participants underscored the urgency of strengthening climate ambition ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP 26) in Glasgow and beyond, and many announced their support for a Global Methane Pledge to be launched at COP 26.
At the Leaders Summit in April, the MEF leaders and other participants stressed the importance of strengthening climate ambition on the road to COP 26. Some leaders made announcements at that time of higher ambition, including new or updated nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement. Others indicated that announcements would be made at a later date.
President Biden was joined in the September 17 virtual, closed-door gathering by leaders from Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, the European Commission, the European Council, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, and the United Kingdom as well as the UN Secretary-General. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry chaired a ministerial session with China, Germany, India, and Russia.
U.S. Secretary of State Blinken opened the meeting by summarizing the latest findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which starkly underscored the rising prevalence of climate-driven disasters and the strong prospect of far graver consequences in coming decades absent urgent, strengthened action. President Biden characterized recent climate-related events as a “blinking code red” and noted that the time to act is narrowing — “to the point of no return.”
Prime Minister Hasina of Bangladesh, representing the Climate Vulnerable Forum, stressed the significant impacts facing vulnerable countries and the importance of moving from “climate vulnerability to climate resilience to climate prosperity.” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stressed that it is not too late to achieve a 1.5 degree Celsius limit on warming, that countries need to step up before COP 26, and that more ambition is needed with respect to mitigation, adaptation, and finance.
Participants then addressed four topics:
- Further commitments and actions to be undertaken 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 collective commitment of Parties to the Paris Agreement to continue strengthening their ambition and actions post-Glasgow.
- Plans to leverage the MEF post-Glasgow as a launchpad for collective, concrete efforts to scale up climate action during the decisive decade of the 2020s.
Concerning further commitments and actions, many stressed the critical importance of keeping a 1.5 degree C limit within reach and achieving global net zero emissions by mid-century. Participants indicated a variety of additional actions being taken, including domestic implementing measures, the intention to increase Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) ambition by COP 26, domestic and international efforts related to coal, and others. Many also emphasized the importance of support for developing countries in the climate transition, including delivering on the developed countries’ goal of mobilizing $100 billion annually.
Recognizing that methane is a powerful, short-lived climate pollutant that already accounts for about half of the 1.0 degrees C of net warming to date, the Global Methane Pledge, an effort co-initiated by the United States and the European Union, will involve a collective goal of reducing global methane emissions by at least 30 percent below 2020 levels by 2030 and implementation of related domestic actions. There was broad recognition at the meeting of 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, declared their intention to join. It was reported that non-MEF countries, including Ghana and Iraq, have also signaled intent to join the Global Methane Pledge. These early supporters of the Pledge include six of the top 15 methane emitters globally and together account for over one-fifth of global methane emissions and nearly half of the global economy.
Concerning COP 26, there was broad agreement on the importance of a successful COP that not only includes the completion of the Paris “rulebook” and strong outcomes on adaptation and finance but also acknowledges the decisive nature of the 2020s and reflects the collective commitment of the Parties to the Paris Agreement to continue strengthening ambition to keep a 1.5 degree C limit on warming within reach.
President Biden also laid out U.S. plans to use the MEF at both the leader and ministerial levels to facilitate targeted endeavors similar to the Global Methane Pledge. Going forward, the MEF will continue to serve as a high-level political forum to advance core climate-related issues among the world’s major economies. In light of the urgency of taking addition climate action, President Biden explained that he also plans to strengthen the MEF’s role as a platform for launching cooperative efforts that accelerate concrete action. Such action will include multiple tracks focused on key spheres, including energy, industry, land, and the ocean. The United States plans to initiate these efforts with a meeting of MEF ministers in January 2022 to discuss clean energy goals in the power, transport, industry and buildings sectors. President Biden also said he plans to convene MEF leaders again to take stock of progress.
In closing remarks, Special Presidential Envoy Kerry cited the Global Methane Pledge as an important contribution to addressing the climate crisis and an example of practical approaches to transformative action. He stressed the urgency of action in the 2020s and called on countries to use every opportunity, including the upcoming G20 Summit in Rome to build further ambition ahead of COP 26 in Glasgow.
- President Alberto Fernandez, Argentine Republic
- 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, Italian Republic
- 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
- Special Envoy of the President and China Special Envoy for Climate Change Xie Zhenhua, People’s Republic of China
- Parliamentary State Secretary at the Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter, Federal Republic of Germany
- Union Cabinet Minister of Labour and Employment, Environment, Forest and Climate Change Bhupender Yadav, India
- Special Presidential Envoy for Climate Change Ruslan Edelgeriyev, Russian Federation