What we learnt from the Earth Day Summit

On the 22nd of April, Joe Biden hosted an environmental summit, where world leaders came together to address the current climate crisis. Biden set out to convince 40 of the world’s leaders to make bold pledges that will make drastic changes to the way we treat our planet. His approach is collective; leaders need to work together on a new goal for greenhouse emissions.

Earth day summit 2021

 

He insisted that the US need to be back at the forefront of the fight against climate change, after the environmental disengagement of Trump’s presidency. He said:  “The signs are unmistakable, the science is undeniable that the cost of inaction, it just keeps mounting. The United States isn’t waiting. ”

 Here are the main takeaways from the event: 


Cutting emissions 

Biden’s main push was on the necessity of cutting greenhouse gas emissions. He committed the US to cut emissions by 50-52% below its 2005 emissions by 2030. Governments representing over 60% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions are now committed to net-zero emissions goals, the majority have set this goal by 2050. What he proposed would mean a completely different America, from half the cars being electric to nearly all coal-powered plants being shut down. All buildings would have to be heated by electricity rather than natural gas, and US’s forests would have to expand so that they absorb 20% more carbon dioxide than they do today. Researchers note that this would be a challenge, but not impossible. 

earth day summit 2021

 

Making history

During the summit, Europe announced its aim to be the ‘first climate-neutral continent in the world’. Ursula von der Leyen - the European Commission President - announced that Europe’s first-ever Climate Law was made over 27 governments in the EU. This solidified their commitment to being climate-neutral. 


Much more funding is needed. 

The summit clarified the need for more funding for environmental strategies. For example, Ricardo Salles - Brazil’s environmental minister -  said that for Brazil to meet its 2030 plans to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and deforestation, they need $10 billion a year. Last month, Salles presented an action plan to solve these issues if more funding was given to them. This was revealed at the summit.


China tries to push the blame 

China’s president, Xi Jingping repeated his pledge to cut down their emissions and limit their coal consumption in the next five years. In the discussion, he emphasised that countries in the west have a history of high emissions. However, although the US is history’s largest emission emitting country, China is currently the largest. 


Women in developing countries making their stance:


The world's Indigenous people make up only about 5% of the global population but effectively protect about 80% of global biodiversity. Their knowledge of nature is vital for the protection of the planet. 


Hinndou Oumarou Ibrahim of the Indigenous Women and Peoples Association of Chad notes that for Indigenous people, the "protection of nature is not a policy, it is our way of life". They are at the heart of protecting the environment: they need to be protected to lead others in living in harmony with nature. 

earth day 2021

Ibrahim advocates for the greater inclusion of indigenous people and their knowledge and traditions in the global movement to fight the effects of climate change. Her community rely on natural resources for their survival and for the survival of animals they care for. They have experienced the direct effects of global warming - Lake Chad is now 10% of its size from the 1960s. 


Her push on the inclusion of indigenous people in climate change strategies is important - not only are they experts in the protection, but they suffer the consequences the most.

 

Greta Thunberg had her say

Greta Thunberg also made a statement, posting a video, addressing the world leaders: "Unlike you, my generation will not give up without a fight," she says. "How long do you honestly believe that people in power will get away with it?" She argued that the fact that we are still having discussions about fossil fuels proves that those who lead the world’s most influential countries do not fully understand the seriousness of our environmental emergency. 

earth day summit 2021

The fossil fuel industry received $30 billion from the federal government in 2020. Stats like this are the reason that Thunberg doubts that real change will be made; “I don’t believe for a second you will actually do this,” she said. 

 

 

Whether Thungberg’s reality check is correct or not, this groundbreaking environmental summit is a start. It was revolutionary that 40 world leaders met to discuss the environment: the conversation was a start towards vital changes being made.