The US will join with other major powers including China, India and the EU in formulating plans for a global green recovery from the coronavirus crisis, in the only major international summit on the climate emergency this year.
The idea of a green recovery to prevent a dangerous rebound in greenhouse gas emissions to above pre-Covid-19 levels has been gathering steam, but few governments have yet committed to plans, reports The Guardian.
If they fail to do so in the next few months, the economic recovery from the Covid-19 crisis risks locking in high carbon emissions that would lead to climate catastrophe.
Next week, the International Energy Agency (IEA) will host an online summit for the world's biggest economies as well as developing countries, covering 80% of global emissions. It aims to set out plans for boosting renewable energy, energy efficiency and other emissions-cutting projects that would generate tens of millions of "shovel-ready" green jobs around the world to replace those lost in the pandemic.
Dan Brouillette, the US secretary of state for energy, will attend, along with China's energy minister, Zhang Jianhua, the EU commission's vice-president, Frans Timmermans, and the UK's business secretary, Alok Sharma, who is president of the UN Cop26 climate talks, now postponed to next year.
Key to success will be that governments can sign up to green recovery plans even if – like the US - they are sceptical on the climate crisis, said Fatih Birol, the executive director of the IEA.
"Even if governments do not take climate change as a key priority, they should still implement our sustainable recovery plan just to create jobs and to give economic growth. Renovating buildings, for instance, is a job machine."
Birol fears a rerun of the recovery after the financial crisis of 2008, when emissions declined sharply in the recession but quickly returned to levels much higher than before, as governments invested in coal-fired power plants, constructed inefficient buildings, and rolled out road-building schemes.
"To halt the rebound, we need to put emissions into structural decline," he said.
That can be done by renovating buildings to use less energy, constructing wind farms and solar plants – which now produce power at a lower cost than fossil fuels – as well as building out broadband and other telecoms networks, and the infrastructure for electric vehicles, which cut down on air pollution as well as carbon dioxide.