Washington: US President Joe Biden told a climate conference for major economies Friday that Russia's war in Ukraine shows the shift to renewable energy is a matter of national security as well as key to preventing global warming.
"Russia's brutal and unprovoked assault on its neighbor Ukraine has fueled a global energy crisis and sharpened the need to achieve longterm reliable energy security and security," Biden told the virtual summit hosted from the White House. "The good news is that climate security and energy security go hand in hand."
This was Biden's third convening of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate since he took office in 2021 with a vow to make the United States a leader in the world's attempt to halt catastrophic global warming.
But it comes just as Biden faces public anger over soaring fuel prices linked to fallout from Russia's invasion of Ukraine. At the same time, European countries are struggling to find ways to circumvent dependence on Russian oil and gas imports.
In his speech, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres delivered a blistering attack on the oil and gas industry, accusing it of mirroring tobacco companies' tactics to push a "false narrative to minimize their responsibility for climate change."
"Nothing could be more clear or present than the danger of fossil fuel expansion. Even in the short-term, fossil fuels don’t make political or economic sense. Yet we seem trapped in a world where fossil fuel producers and financiers have humanity by the throat," he said.
However, the UN chief's message ran counter to the political realities facing Biden as he tries to persuade the domestic oil industry to amp up production and prepares for a visit to Saudi Arabia next month.
Americans are currently paying an average of $5 a gallon to fill their cars, up from $3 a year ago, and the hike is in turn fueling wider inflation, now at a 40-year high.
- India, Russia absent -
A senior Biden administration official said 23 countries were represented at the video conference, representing most of the world's major economies and "focused around the mitigation that they will be taking" on climate impacts.
At a previous session in September 2021, Biden and the European Union announced a pledge to cut emissions of methane, a planet-warming gas. This was formally launched at the COP26 UN climate summit in Glasgow and now has 115 countries signed on.
Friday's gathering was the largest leader-level gathering before COP27, the follow-up summit, set to take place in Egypt this November.
But highlighting diplomatic complications besetting the search for international cooperation on the global climate threat, Russia did not attend Friday's summit.
China was represented only at the level of its climate envoy, rather than President Xi Jinping, the White House said. And India was not on the official list of attendees, either.
- Methane opportunity -
Warning that the world must not let global climate change mitigation goals “slip out of our reach,” Biden said “the window for action is rapidly narrowing.”
Despite the scramble to adapt global energy markets to fallout from the Ukraine war, Biden insisted that longterm climate management, immediate economic goals and ending reliance on energy exporter Russia can all work together.
He cited the global pledge to end methane gas leaks and the practice of burning off, or flaring, unwanted gas at oil fields, calling on countries to "ramp up" their responses.
European economies are heavily reliant on Russian energy, but Biden said an end to methane waste alone could solve that problem.
"Each year our existing energy system leaks enough methane to meet the needs for the entire European power sector. We flare enough gas to offset nearly all of the EU’s gas imports from Russia," he said.
"So by stopping the leaking and flaring of this super-potent greenhouse gas and capturing this resource for countries that need it we’re addressing two problems at once."