How to Watch Joe Biden, 40 World Leaders Discuss Climate Change

Issues concerning global climate change will be discussed before the world by President Joe Biden and 40 world leaders he invited to the two-day virtual Leaders Summit on Climate that can be viewed by livestream, beginning Thursday and ending Friday.

The summit's sessions will be streamed virtually on the White House and State Department channels, according to the Associated Press. On Thursday, the summit is scheduled for 8 a.m. ET to 2 p.m. and Friday from 8 a.m. ET to midday.

"The Leaders Summit on Climate will underscore the urgency—and the economic benefits—of stronger climate action," a White House statement on the summit said. "It will be a key milestone on the road to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) this November in Glasgow."

With the summit, Biden is demonstrating the seriousness of the U.S. in cutting pollution of heat-trapping gases, according to AP.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

U.S. President Joe Biden
President Joe Biden and 40 world leaders will discuss climate change virtually on Thursday and Friday as part of the Leaders Summit on Climate, which will be livestreamed. In the photo, Biden makes remarks in response to the verdict in the murder trial of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin at the Cross Hall of the White House April 20, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Chauvin on Tuesday was found guilty on all three charges in the death of George Floyd last May. Doug Mills/Getty Images

While there will be many faces on screen, this will clearly be Biden's show.

Biden said the summit will call the shots for what's to come. He's trying to show a new American goal for cutting emissions. Then he'll try to cajole other nations to ratchet up the pollution-cutting promises they made in the 2015 Paris climate agreement. All of it via virtual diplomacy.

Along the way, there may be intrigue, potential conflicts and pathos.

The theme

It's simple: The U.S. is returning to the climate fight and wants to lead again.

After the U.S. helped negotiate the last two climate agreements—1997's Kyoto Protocol and 2015's Paris accord—Presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump backed out. The U.S. last year became the only country to leave the Paris deal.

For the Biden administration, this summit is "their version of we're baaack," said Henry "Jake" Jacoby, co-founder of the MIT Center for Global Change Science. "And they want to do that in a dramatic way."

That dramatic way is to announce what is expected to be one of the world's most ambitious national goals for cutting the gases that cause climate change: cutting them at least in half by 2030 compared with 2005.

"That is quite a welcome message after the four years we painfully witnessed," said Christiana Figueres, the former United Nations climate chief, who helped forge the Paris accord. "The fact that the United States is back is very important."

Why you should watch

Human-caused climate change is getting worse around the globe. On average about 23 million people a year are displaced by weather-related storms, fires and floods, according to the World Meteorological Organization. Hundreds of billions of tons of snow and ice are lost each year. Sea level rise is accelerating.

In Paris, world leaders set two goals to limit global warming to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) and if possible to limit it to no more than 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) compared with pre-industrial temperatures. However, the world has already warmed almost 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.2 degrees Celsius).

"We are on the verge of the abyss," U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Monday.

Leaders still hope that somehow the more stringent Paris goal can be met even as scientists say it is less and less likely.

The leaders attending the summit represent "the group that will make it possible that we keep the 1.5-degree goal within reach," U.N. climate chief Patricia Espinosa told AP.

The key announcement

The Paris agreement calls for ratcheting up 6-year-old commitments to cut carbon emissions with tougher goals aimed at 2030.

The U.S. hasn't formally announced its goal, but it's expected that Biden will commit the country to cutting its greenhouse gas emissions by at least half.

That would put "the U.S. at the top of the pack," said former Obama White House environment official Kate Larsen, a director at the private research Rhodium Group. It would be about the same as the European Union but behind the United Kingdom.

After the U.S. announces its target, other nations will be invited to present tougher targets.

Follow the money

Just as important is money, Espinosa said. That's because poorer nations, which are using polluting fossil fuels to develop, need financial help to switch to cleaner but more expensive fuels. The Paris agreement commits richer nations, like the U.S., to spend billions to help poorer nations because it makes the world cleaner for everyone, she said.

Years ago, the developed world committed to $100 billion in public and private financial help, much of which hasn't been paid. Eventually that needs to increase to $1 trillion a year because that's how much it will take to get the world to decarbonize and help poorer nations adapt to rising sea levels, worsening storms and other climate harms, former climate chief Figueres said.

The U.S. promised $3 billion in aid in Paris but paid only the first $1 billion. Then Trump canceled the rest. Biden has put $1.2 billion in his latest budget proposal.

"The U.S. is way behind on its commitment because of those four Trump years," Figueres said, "and needs to play catch-up, not on its own, but hand-in-hand with all of the other industrialized nations."

Also look for private companies to contribute.

Who to watch

This is Biden's show and he will kick it off, formally announcing the 50% emissions cut. He'll be followed by the leaders of the world's biggest economies, which spew 80% of the greenhouse gases.

The U.S., which has put the most greenhouse gases in the atmosphere over decades, and current top carbon-polluting nation China, last week issued a joint statement saying they're working together to be more ambitious on climate. Chinese President Xi Jinping will deliver an important speech, the government announced. Also keep an eye on the leader of India, the third-biggest emitter.

Then there's the human factor. The tighter Paris goal of 1.5 degrees is because small island nations, such as the Marshall Islands and Jamaica, said further warming and sea level rise could wash them out of existence. Some of those leaders will talk at the summit.

"The message they will bring humanizes climate change," Figueres said. "Let's not only talk about gigatons [of emissions], let's talk about human impact today, not just in the future."

Also starring

Others to closely watch: leaders of Japan and South Korea, who are being pressured to stop financing new coal power plants in other countries.

Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro will be on the spot because his country's 2030 goal is weaker than the nation's 2025 goal and there's pressure to stop Amazon deforestation. And Russia's Vladimir Putin, who has clashed with Biden, will also appear.

But there's more. Pope Francis will speak on Thursday, while Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg are featured on Friday. Mayors, governors, financial leaders, 18 Biden appointees and indigenous and youth activists will also get screen time.

The sequel

This all leads to formal climate negotiations in November in Glasgow, Scotland, which is the big follow-up to the Paris agreement. The United Nations is counting on nearly 200 nations to announce tougher emission-cut targets before that meeting, which will hash out still-lingering issues.

"This week is getting the ball rolling," said Nigel Purvis, a former U.S. State Department climate negotiator in Democratic and Republican administrations.