By Dani Robertson, International Project Manager

Kicking off on Earth Day 2021, the United States is hosting a virtual summit to galvanise efforts on climate action, bringing together 40 world leaders from the largest emitting countries, including Australia, Indonesia and Vietnam.

The summit will be an important indicator on whether global diplomatic tensions can be set aside in the pursuit of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. So what can we expect to see from the two-day summit?

Diplomatic pressure will be on Australia and Indonesia

The United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken has advised ‘countries investing in new coal will hear from the US’.

Australia is already under pressure to lift its ambition, and will aim to use the summit to repair the nation’s reputation globally. John Kerry has previously emphasised Australia as one of the countries most needing to increase its ambition. The Australian government announced this week it would be committing AU$540 million towards hydrogen and carbon capture and storage projects and $565 million toward international collaborations on low-emissions technologies. Countries will be expected to make strong, detailed pledges at the summit and it remains to be seen whether other countries think that Australia’s announcements meet these expectations.

Indonesian President Jokowi will be co-chairing a session with President Biden at the summit, but will face pressure for Indonesia to raise its climate ambition despite the country setting a net zero by 2070 target. 

New or enhanced commitments from world leaders

US President Biden will likely pledge a 48-53 per cent reduction in emissions based on 2005 levels, nearly doubling the target set under the 2015 Paris Agreement. The United Kingdom has confirmed it will cut emissions, including from international aviation and shipping, by 78 per cent by the year 2035, up from its pledge made as part of the Paris Agreement to reduce emissions by 68 per cent, this increase in ambition puts it in a world-leading position. The European Union has reached a provisional deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions 55 per cent by 2030, replacing the previous plan to cut emissions 40 per cent by 2030, from 1990 levels. And Japan is looking to raise its 2030 target to at least a 40 per cent cut on 2013 levels. This is an increase from the current 26 per cent target.

New financial commitments

It’s anticipated the US will outline its international finance commitment package, with the potential to return to the Green Climate Fund after the Trump administration reneged in 2016. Countries including China, South Korea and Japan will likely face pressure to cease public financing of new coal. The Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, formed by many of the world’s largest banks, asset managers, insurers, and asset owners is set to debut at the summit.

The green recovery

Alongside increased ambition, countries will be expected to demonstrate how they intend to ‘green’ their COVID-19 recovery plans. Research, including ClimateWorks’ Decarbonisation Futures, consistently shows that a green recovery will have long term economic and environmental benefits. Sign up to our newsletter for updates and more from our experts.

You can watch the Leaders Summit on Climate live at 8:00am EDT (that’s 10:00pm AEST!) online and keep up on social media by following #LeadersClimateSummit