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Biden's Zoom diplomacy; the new U.S. climate leaderboard, and the coming six-month summer

By David Callaway, Callaway Climate Insights

The fragile political concept that climate change diplomacy can thread the needle between human rights, trade and territory disagreements among world powers will be tested in the next few days as China and Russia respond to President’s Biden’s climate summit invitations.

As the summit on April 22 and 23 is digital, it’s simply a matter of hopping on a Zoom call for Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, as well as 40 other world leaders who were invited. More than anything, it’s a coming out party for Biden and the U.S. after four years in the Trump climate wilderness. A massive emissions reductions commitment in line with and likely beyond the Paris accord is expected in the days before the summit.

But global commitment to the issue will be judged, fairly or unfairly, on whether Xi and Putin are on board. Other leaders, such as Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (note the absence of Mohammed bin Salman), and India’s Narendra Modi, might take their cue from the two leaders. (See the list of invitees here.)

It’s an early sign of whether the COP26 summit in Glasgow later this year will have any chance of success, as the 40 leaders invited next month represent countries that contribute more than 80% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Regional cooperation among nations, in particular around sharing energy grids and renewable technologies, needs to rise above ancient grudges and rivalries if progress is to be made.

This is one where a leader’s absence next month will be more telling than any commitment they might possibly make about climate progress decades out.

More insights below. . . .

Monday’s insights: India’s driving emissions deadline, Massachusetts’ new climate law, and the never-ending summer

. . . . Anyone who’s ever driven or been driven around in India knows first-hand the climate issues tied to its bustling automotive industry. The world’s third largest polluter, behind China and the U.S., is being watched closely for signs it’s willing to make a real effort on reducing emissions, particularly in Asia. Its decision this week to stand behind a 2022 deadline on tightened fuel efficiency standards is a first step toward addressing the bigger issue of fuel subsidies for its drivers. Read more here. . . .

. . . .While students may rejoice, the prospects of a six-month summer terrifies climate scientists. A new report this week that says the summer days grew by 17 to 95 days a year in the past 70 years — and could grow to six months by 2100 — throws the prospects for everything from agriculture and healthcare to energy use for cooling systems into chaos if true. It does seem like the seasons are shifting though, doesn’t it? Read more here. . . .

. . . . A new Massachusetts law to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030 vaults the Bay State to the forefront of the U.S. climate leaderboard by imposing short-term targets and enshrining environmental justice practices in all energy projects. Read how it compares to other states here. . . .

Data driven: Plastic pollution, lost opportunities

. . . . More than $6 billion of the value of plastics is lost in Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines, according to a World Bank assessment of each country’s respective plastic recycling market. Less than a quarter of recyclable resins are harnessed in the coastal countries, leading not only to excess plastic waste in the oceans and nearby ecosystems, but leaving a significant economic opportunity unharnessed. . . .

Read the full data point

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