By CONOR FINNEGAN, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. and Canada will host a “high-level summit” on Wednesday about climate change, according to U.S. officials, who described it as the first diplomatic initiative for the Biden administration as it seeks to put the issue back at the top of the U.S. foreign policy agenda.
That move was welcomed by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday, who met virtually with President Joe Biden in the U.S. president’s first bilateral meeting.
“U.S. leadership has been sorely missed over the past years” on climate change, Trudeau said, adding it was “nice when the Americans are not pulling out all references to climate change and instead adding them” into their joint statements after their meetings.
During Wednesday’s summit, co-hosted by Biden’s special envoy for climate John Kerry, Canada is expected to announce a commitment to boost its target to reduce its carbon emissions, the U.S. officials said, while the Biden administration plans to release the U.S. target by Biden’s climate summit on Earth Day.
After his meetings with Trudeau on Tuesday, Biden said the two countries committed to “up the ante” on climate change and “spur other countries to raise their own ambitions.”
The move is a first diplomatic step for the Biden administration as Kerry urges greater action to tackle the “climate crisis” and begins reengaging countries, the United Nations and non-governmental organizations on the issue.
Canada is working “in partnership with us in creating ambition in this decade, not just bilaterally, but with all the other major economies in the rest of the world,” a Kerry adviser said.
In increasingly urgent tones, Kerry has sounded the alarm about the need for action beyond the Paris climate accord, which he helped negotiate during the Obama administration. Former President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the non-binding deal, but Biden re-entered the deal on his first day in office — formally rejoining last Friday.
“We are absolutely, clearly, without question inside the decisive decade,” Kerry said Friday. “It’s what people will do in the next 10 years that matter.”
Kerry and Canadian Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson will co-host Wednesday’s meetings, and the talks will also focus on monitoring and addressing shared environmental threats and on aligning U.S. and Canadian policies and regulations on oil and gas, transportation and other sectors.
Biden has previously announced plans to host a major summit of world leaders to discuss climate change on Earth Day. Kerry said Friday it will include the world’s major carbon emitters and climate change’s most urgent victims so far, including Bangladesh and Pacific island countries facing rising sea levels.
“The president has a deep commitment to this issue and is looking to a core, longstanding close partner and ally to work together to make sure that this summit is a success,” the adviser said, and the COP26 summit in November is too.
The officials declined to say whether there would be other similar high-level meetings before Biden’s Earth Day gathering, including whether Kerry has spoken to his Chinese counterpart.
But the Kerry adviser told ABC News that the former secretary of state and presidential candidate is “talking to every major economy and reaching out comprehensively on this. … We have lots of dialogues underway in parallel with the run-up to this summit,” including re-launching the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, which the Obama administration initiated in 2009 and that last met in July 2015.
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