Thursday, April 22, 2021

U.S. President Joe Biden has invited 40 world leaders to the Leaders Summit on Climate, April 22 (Earth Day) and April 23.

According to the White House announcement, the summit “will underscore the urgency – and the economic benefits – of stronger climate action.  It will be a key milestone on the road to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) this November in Glasgow.”

The U.S. has already made a commitment to cut fossil fuel emissions up to 52% by 2030. Other allied countries have made similar commitments.

Faculty of Law Dean Jutta Brunnée's teaching and research interests are in the areas of Public International Law, International Environmental Law and International Legal Theory. U of T Law communications asked for her thoughts on the ongoing summit:  

Q: How important is Biden’s and the U.S. administration’s involvement in global climate efforts and a return to the Paris Agreement after Trump’s departure?

Brunnée: The U.S. return to the Paris Agreement is tremendously important. Given the U.S. share of global greenhouse gas emissions and the size of the U.S. economy, renewed U.S. leadership and the ambitious signals the Biden administration are sending are bound to send provide significant impulse for action to others. This is especially true for Canada, given the close economic and political ties to the U.S.

Q: What is the significance of the U.S. hosting a summit in advance of the United Nations (UN) conference in November?

Brunnée: The summit is significant because it allows the U.S. to showcase its climate goals, and provides pressure on others to follow suit. Once major economies have signaled their plans, pressure on all others results. Another important dimension: the signals that are being sent to the private sector.

Q: Are the commitments made by the U.S. and other allied countries to cut fossil fuel emissions feasible to meet by 2030?

Brunnée: I think so. The writing has been on the wall for some time, and economic / private sector actors have already been moving in this direction. Furthermore, once the tracks are set in an ambitious direction, innovation and competition will accelerate movement in the right direction.

Q: Do you foresee new international agreements being made?

Brunnée: The Paris Agreement envisages regular ramping up of ambition in national climate action (every five years). So, there will be renewed action (and review of performance) under the umbrella of the Paris Agreement, not separate new agreements. That said, countries might agree, example, to harmonize national standards and approaches, with a view to avoiding barriers to trade or investment that might result from domestic standard setting.