EU, US sow seeds for climate cooperation, dodge coal’s end date

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The United States and European Union will pledge closer cooperation on fighting climate change at a summit on Tuesday, but will steer clear of setting a date to stop burning coal, according to a draft joint statement.

US President Joe Biden will meet the chief of the European Union’s executive, Ursula von der Leyen, and European Council President Charles Michel on Tuesday for a summit tackling issues from trade to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The meeting marks the return of EU-US collaboration on fighting climate change after former President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris Agreement and rolled back environmental regulations.

The United States and EU are the world’s second and third biggest emitters of CO2, respectively, after China. A draft of their summit statement, seen by Reuters, outlines plans for a transatlantic alliance to develop green technologies and points to sustainable finance as an area for closer transatlantic collaboration.

The EU and the United States will also “scale up efforts” to meet an overdue spending pledge of $100 billion a year by rich countries to help poorer countries cut carbon emissions and cope with global warming, the draft said.

It did not include firm promises of cash. Canada and Germany both pledged billions in new climate finance on Sunday, and campaigners had called on Brussels and Washington to do the same.

The United States pledged in April to double its climate funding by 2024 from high average levels hit during the Obama administration of roughly $2.8 billion.

The EU and its member countries are, taken together, the biggest provider of climate finance to developing countries, contributing 21.9 billion euros in 2019.

The draft EU-US statement echoed a statement made by G7 leaders this weekend, which pledged to stop government financing for international coal plants without carbon capture technology by 2022 and also stopped short of setting a date to quit coal, the most polluting fossil fuel and the single biggest cause of greenhouse gas emissions.

Brussels and Washington said they will largely eliminate their CO2 emissions from electricity production by the 2030s.

While Biden set an executive order setting a goal for net zero emissions in the US electric sector, US Democrats and Republicans are at odds over whether to include a measure to enact that goal in an infrastructure package that is being debated in Congress, worrying environmental groups.

“It’s a minimal expectation that the Biden administration does everything it can and uses all the tools at its disposal,” said Nat Keohane, international climate director at the Environmental Defense Fund. “That will take some political capital and creativity.”