World leaders pledge to increase efforts in fighting global warming

World leaders from some 70 countries staged a virtual gathering on Saturday to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the Paris climate accord, the international agreement to curb global warming.

The Climate Ambition Summit, jointly hosted by France, Britain, Italy, Chile and the United Nations, drew pledges by countries to increase efforts in tackling global climate challenges. 

In his address, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced deeper commitments to combatting climate change. 

“China will lower its carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by over 65 percent from the 2005 level, increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 25 percent, increase the forest stock volume by 6 billion cubic meters from the 2005 level, and bring its total installed capacity of wind and solar power to over 1.2 billion kilowatts,” President Xi said.

Speaking at the summit, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that the world needs to reduce global emissions by 45% by 2030 compared to 2010 levels and urged world leaders to “take the right decisions” to push their countries towards carbon neutrality.

Charles Michel, president of the European Council, stressed the importance of international cooperation in fighting climate change. 

The U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson also pointed to the global efforts in developing coronavirus vaccines as an example of the strength of countries working together.

“Together we can use scientific advances to protect our entire planet, our biosphere, against a challenge far worse, far more destructive than coronavirus,” said Johnson during his address.

India expressed confidence it would surpass the pledges it made at the Paris climate talks five years ago. “We have reduced our emission intensity by 21 percent over 2005 levels,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at the meeting.

The Maldives, an Indian Ocean nation of islands threatened by rising sea-levels caused by global warming, announced Saturday that it will now pledge to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030. That’s one of the most ambitious goals worldwide.

“I want the golden thread of climate action to weave through every international gathering next year, including the G7, the G20 and other meetings,” said the U.K.’s Alok Sharma, in his role as president of the 26th U.N. Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26).

The administration of President , who withdrew the U.S. from the Paris accord, wasn’t represented at the meeting. U.S. President-elect promised to rejoin the Paris Agreement in a written statement sent shortly before the meeting started. 

As a co-host of the meeting, President of Chile Sebastian Pinera said, “The U.S. is returning to the Paris Agreement, from which it should have never left and it is great news, but is not enough. We expect that the U.S. will commit to carbon neutrality. Others have done in the past days and weeks, countries such as China, Japan and Brazil.”

The countries that are party to the Paris Agreement are required to submit their updated targets to the United Nations by the end of this year. COP26, delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, is now set to be held next November in Glasgow.

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