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Biden, world leaders push climate action, vow methane cuts

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken listens as President Joe Biden delivers remarks to the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus, Friday, Sept. 17, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden tried on Friday to hammer out the world’s next steps against rapidly worsening climate change with a small group of other global leaders and announced a new U.S.-European pledge to cut climate-wrecking methane leaks.

Ever-grimmer findings from scientists this year that the world is nearing the point where the level of climate damage from burning oil, gas and coal becomes catastrophic and irreversible “represent a code red for humanity,” Biden said at the session’s outset.

“We have to act and we have to act now,” Biden said, speaking on a specially erected White House set that showed virtual arrays of solar panels in the background and a wall of other global leaders listening on screens.

Biden, in the public opening of the otherwise private talks, hailed a new U.S. agreement with the European Union aiming at cutting the two entities’ emissions of methane 30% by the end of this decade. Methane, the main component of natural gas, is one of the most potent agents of climate damage, gushing up by the ton from countless uncapped oil and gas rigs, leaky natural gas pipelines and other oil and gas facilities.

Biden evoked the “damage and destruction” he had seen in the United States, massive flooding in Europe and other global damage from the warming climate. He cited his trips earlier this month to California, where firefighters are battling larger, fiercer and deadlier wildfires almost year-round as temperatures rise and drought worsens, and to the northeastern U.S. and Gulf Coast, where Hurricane Ida and its flooding killed scores, as natural disasters increase in number and severity under climate change.

As Biden spoke Friday, California firefighters were trying to stop fires from reaching ancient groves of sequoias that are thousands of years old and the height of high-rises.

The White House billed Friday’s meeting as a chance for some of the world leaders to strategize how to achieve big, fast cuts in climate-wrecking petroleum and coal emissions. The administration also is trying to re-establish the United States’ Major Economies Forum — a climate group set up by former President Barack Obama and revived by Biden — as a significant forum for international climate negotiations.

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