Via Teleconference

3:35 P.M. EDT

MODERATOR:  Hello, everyone.  Welcome to a briefing on the administration’s climate policy.  Today, our on-background call will have as its speaker [senior administration official]. 

As this call is on background, for the purpose of this call, our speaker will be referred to as a “senior administration official.”  The contents of the call and the material sent to the RSVPs are embargoed until the release of the content this afternoon.  It should be at the end of the call, but if you could just wait until the release, that would be great. 

We’ll start with comments from our speaker and then open it up for question and answer.  If you have not received the embargoed materials, feel free to email the press distro.  Other than that, I’ll turn it over to our speaker.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Great.  Thank you so much.  And good afternoon, everyone.  The purpose of this call is to let everyone know that the President will be reconvening the Major Economies Forum on energy and climate change, known as the “MEF,” at the leader level, for the second time during his administration. 

We last met earlier this year on April 22nd — on Earth Day — for the first reconvening of this group in more than over a decade, with the objective of strengthening our climate ambitions heading into the 26th U.N. climate conference, known as COP26, this November, which will be taking place in a few short weeks — six short weeks away.

A key part of this meeting is really to have a candid conversation among these world leaders to talk about what more needs to happen before Glasgow and beyond.  He’s going to press again for stronger action and lay out plans for how we continue to drive action immediately next year and beyond.

Since the last time these leaders have met in this forum, a lot has happened both here in the U.S., as well as around the world.  Most notably, coming into this meeting, we are all very cognizant of the recently released IPCC report — the Working Group I report on a sixth assessment in August that was released.  And it found very key, stark findings regarding atmospheric carbon dioxide levels being at the highest in over 2 million years, and it simply raises an urgency for our collective action.

This meeting also takes place on the heels of the President’s trip this past week and a half, where he traveled to five states to survey damage caused by extreme weather fueled by the climate crisis and declared this a “code red” moment. 

So, just wanted to start there as the framing comments for the upcoming meeting taking place on Friday.

Back to you, [senior administration official]. 

Q    Hi, everybody.  Thanks so much for holding this call.  I wanted to ask, first of all, about the new methane commitment that the U.S. and the EU have reached and confirm that it is going to be a third — or nearly third reduction by 2030.  I’m curious for more details on that.  What other countries, if any — are there other countries specifically that you guys want to see sign on?

And secondly, curious if you can all detail any new climate finance provisions that the U.S. will be laying out internationally.  Thank you very much.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Great.  Thank you so much.  As I noted at the top, the IPCC is a key report in its findings coming into this meeting.  And in that report, as well as the subsequent one — the recent Global Methane Assessment — it shows that methane is obviously, as we all know — if you’re all climate science reporters or in this space — that methane is a powerful, short-lived climate pollutant that already accounts for about half a degree of warming.

Rapidly reducing methane emissions may be the single-most effective strategy to keep the 1.5-degree limit within reach, in terms of near-term actions one can take.  And because of those reasons and because of its powerful potent greenhouse gas and — reducing it could be very effective in the near term. 

We are grateful to be working with the European Union and partner countries towards a collective global goal.  And I’d like to underscore that it is a collective global goal to significantly reduce methane emissions. 

And we will be a part of the discussion on Friday, so we look forward to sharing more with you on Friday about the countries that are partnering with us in this pledge — in, again, this global collective pledge — and how it will feature in the discussion taking place on Friday. 

Oh, sorry.  And then regarding on climate finance, as you know, the U.S. has at the (inaudible) on climate change, stepped up to take a very ambitious target around climate finance, and has heard from others around the world the need for all of us to continue to increase our ambition around climate finance, and the U.S. is taking a look at that. 

Q    Hey, thanks so much for doing this with us.  First, I was wondering if you could tell us who else you expect to attend, if — I mean, if other heads of state will be virtually attending or who is sort of part of this. 

And then, you know, you described the importance of the Major Economies Forum in, sort of, building up ambitions ahead of COP.  This meeting is obviously virtual.  There’s a lot of, you know, calls now to postpone COP26, given the Delta variant and the challenges that that creates for a lot of countries. 

Do you, at this point, feel that that conference needs to take place in November and needs to take place in person?  Or are you open, at this point, to doing with that conference what you’re doing with the Major Economies Forum and do it virtually?  Thanks.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Great, thank you so much for that — for those questions.  Can you just repeat the first part of your question again?

Q    Yeah.  Who will — who else will —

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Oh, countries —

Q    — participate (inaudible)?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  So, I don’t have — we don’t have anything to — we are still receiving RSVPs, and we can share more on that later.  And we’ll be able to share that after the conclusion of the meeting.  We’ll be doing a (inaudible) summary of a readout in the meeting that we can share with — with who will be participating. 

We are going for — it’ll be leader level only.  I can confirm that. 

Q    Thank you.  That’s helpful. 

Q    Hi.  Thank you so much for doing this.  I want to circle back to the question about climate finance that came up in a call earlier today that U.N. officials did.  And in talking about Friday’s session, they see what the White House is putting together as an opportunity for the industrialized companies — countries of the world to come forward with more concrete offerings to make climate action work for the rest of the world. 

So, I’m wondering — you know, you said you’d just be taking a look at that, and I’m kind of wondering if there’s any chance that we’ll see dollar amounts, you know, commit — like concrete commitments of money that the U.S. and other industrialized nations will put up for this effort.  And in lieu of that, what could possibly make Friday’s session a success?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  The Friday session is — as we have done before — it’s just really about the President bringing together world leaders to demonstrate how we’re trying to build habits of cooperation on international climate issues by making climate a key foreign policy and national security priority.  He really wants to be able to convene world leaders on a regular basis and create these habits of discussion for — candid discussions and formal discussions — and among a (inaudible) set of factors and players.

This is — will be — this will not be livestreamed.  So, unlike the April summit, which was livestreamed and publicly viewable, this will not be.  This will not be in that vein, because this is really about having an opportunity to sit down virtually — again, given COVID — with our colleagues to talk about what we can be doing as the major economies and major emitters, which obviously starts first and foremost with taking ambitious action to reduce our emissions. 

And so, whether it’s updating your — and enhancing your nationally determined contribution, which has always been a top ask; whether it’s taking sectoral actions or collective targets — taking on collective targets to sectoral actions to reduce sectors, such as the hard-to-abate sectors — industrial emissions, power sector, transportation — it really is an opportunity to do a quick stocktake of that. 

The U.S. administration has made a lot of progress in the last several months on many of those sectors, including the executive order the President had signed that set new, ambitious targets to make half of all new vehicles sold in 2030 zero-emissions vehicles, including battery electric, plug-in hybrid electric, or fuel-cell electric vehicles.

And so, to talk about the progress we’re making on things like that, the Hydrogen Earthshot — which would tackle industrial emissions as well — and reducing and decarbonizing that space, this is an opportunity for countries to come to the table to talk about what they’re doing on emission reduction. 

Specific to the finance question that you raised, again, you know, we are all talking about what we can do to mobilize greater private capital, greater public sector dollars. 

Secretary Yellen convened the multilateral development banks earlier this year to talk about what more they can be doing, and cooperating and collaborating with them.

And so, this has always been a conversation and part of the discussions we have, but this is — again, the nature of the meeting is not such that we are having countries publicly announce or commit things, given that the nature is not a livestreamed summit or anything like that.

I do just want to — I realize I skipped your previous colleague’s question about the COP26 and in-person.  As you may have heard already, we believe that COP26 is a pivotal moment for the world to come together to tackle climate crisis.  So, we support the aim of an in-person COP, provided it can be done safely and equitably, and we look forward to joining all countries in a safe, inclusive COP.

Q    Hi.  Thanks for doing this today.  Also, a two-parter.  Can you talk about — I mean, what’s the area that’s proving the biggest challenge right now?  Is it around, you know, the short-term goals and getting countries on a 1.5-degree path, or is it something else?  Where is sort of the most distance among the G20 and MEF countries right now?

Secondly, could you also speak to what you’re going to be discussing, if anything, around coal — coal financing at the MEF?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Great, thank you.  In terms of the biggest challenge that we’re finding going into the climate nego- — into the COP26 negotiations, I would say it is ensuring that all leaders and all major economies are coming to COP26 with the — not only the feeling of the greater urgency instilled in all of us from the IPCC, but with tangible and concrete actions to demonstrate what we’re doing to respond to that urgency.

And that is, first and foremost, demonstrating what we’re doing to further our commitments and actions through enhanced NDCs, as well as what are some of the sectoral contributions and actions we can take in this decisive decade to demonstrate that, in 2021, we kicked off this decade of action with true, concrete ways of implementing — whether that’s policy, finance, and other types of commitments — to collective goals, such as targets around methane, for instance.

The second part of your question was on what else would be discussed at this summit regarding — this meeting, rather –regarding coal.  We don’t necessarily see a strong focus in this particular conversation around coal.  As you know, at the last G7 meeting, both the leader-level meeting, we made a very strong position at the G7 to end our public financing of unabated coal as G7 leaders.

We then had the G20 Environment, Climate, and Energy Ministers Meeting, where you saw that coal was a key part of that discussion.  And, frankly, it was noted that it was going to be an area for further discussion among leaders.

So, really, through the G20 context, which our sherpa is currently in Italy, right now, having many of these discussions. I believe tomorrow is Climate Day for the sherpas.  You know, they are actively discussing this topic through that forum and that venue.  The MEF meeting is really focused around what, for this upcoming meeting, is — going into COP26 — what are these leaders talking about in terms of how we’re stepping up our ambition going into COP26, but also going through Glasgow.

I think it’s really important, given where we are in 2021, in this year, for the leaders to talk about and start to have their eyes sighted on plans to leverage the MEF post-Glasgow, as a launchpad for collective, concrete efforts to scale up climate ambition through the decade, and to really make sure that leaders are having forward-looking discussions about what a forward-looking COP could look like, and then continuing to strengthen that ambition post-Glasgow.

So, this MEF forum, as those who have followed us in the past, this is not a new construct; the MEF has existed before.  It only met once at the leader level, over a decade ago, before President Biden has — has decided to reconvene them earlier this year and again this year.  So, we really want to use the MEF mechanism as a great forum and a conversation — a productive one — for leaders to have these discussions on a range of topics.

And for this upcoming MEF, it’ll really be centered around these near-term actions, COP actions, and using as a launchpad for collective and concrete efforts through Glasgow.

MODERATOR:  Thanks so much.  And with that, that concludes the question-and-answer and our call.  As a reminder, the contents are embargoed until the end of the call, so now. 

And if you’ve not received the embargoed materials, feel free to email the press distro or myself.  And if you have any other questions or weren’t able to get your question on, we’re happy to get the answers as well.

Thank you so much, and have a great day.

3:50 P.M. EDT

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