Russia gathers with US, Europe on climate despite tensions

·3 min read
United States Climate Check (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
United States Climate Check (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Top diplomats of the United States and the world's other worst climate-polluting nations talked global warming together Thursday for the first time since November's U.N. summit, steadying one another to stick to the emissions-cutting pledges they made then and to commit to cutting still more.

Russia was among two dozen nations and European and U.N. organizations taking part in Thursday's virtual climate session. That's despite heightened tensions among many of those same countries over a Russian troop build up near the border with Ukraine, and reciprocal steps by the United States and European allies.

The government ministers and others in the closed talks stuck to climate topics, despite the military deployments surrounding the Ukraine standoff, a senior U.S. administration official said.

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry and other nations' diplomats urged governments to cut their use of dirty-burning coal far more quickly, and discussion of getting more countries to join in committing to cut releases of climate-wrecking methane from the natural gas industry.

The U.S. official and one other spoke on condition of anonymity to brief reporters on the closed-door climate session.

Thursday's session also played to hopes of Biden administration officials and others that even nations at odds with each other over numerous other matters — especially the United States, Russia and China — could stay at least minimally engaged in diplomacy aimed at keeping the Earth's warming from the burning of fossil fuels below catastrophic levels.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken opened Thursday's session by stressing what he said were the major climate polluters' obligations: following through on the specific emissions-cutting and climate aid pledges they made at the Glasgow summit and keep committing to additional bigger, faster steps, the first official said.

Diplomats were also frank about the problems their countries face in meeting their pledges, the official said. That included the representatives of President Joe Biden who has been unable to get his most ambitious climate legislation through a Senate where Democrats hold the slimmest of majorities.

Many in Thursday's session “underscored the importance of countries whose 2030 targets are not yet aligned with the Paris goal strengthening them this year,” Kerry said in a statement afterward. “One thing is clear: we all must move faster in this decade to accelerate the transition from coal to renewables.”

The session and others that will follow are meant to keep up emissions-cutting momentum internationally between U.N. climate summits.

The United Nations calculates that countries must halve emissions by the end of this decade to keep the Earth's rising temperature at or under an internationally set target level.

The Biden administration helped broker new pledges by many governments for more action cutting emissions before Glasgow.

But the world is on track to get much hotter than the target level even if countries make good on their promises. And climate-wrecking pollution, mostly from coal-burning power plants and trucks hauling cargo, has surged again as the pandemic economy recovers.

The session grouped the world's worst climate polluters and biggest economies with some of the countries most endangered by the warming climate. Participants represented Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, Egypt, the European Commission, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, the Marshall Islands, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Turkey, and the United Nations.

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