GLASGOW, United Kingdom – President Joe Biden on Monday called for world leaders work together to address climate change, calling it the "challenge of our collective lifetimes."
His remarks came during the opening of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, better known as COP26, being held in Glasgow, Scotland, for the next 10 days.
"We meet with the eyes of history upon us, and a profound question is before us," Biden said. "It's simple. Will we act? Will we do what is necessary? Will we seize the enormous opportunity before us? Or will we condemn future generations to suffer? This is the decade that will determine the answer."
Biden, while highlighting record heat, drought, wildfires, crop failures and historic flooding, said the window to address climate change is narrowing.
"This is a decisive decade in which we have an opportunity to prove ourselves," Biden said. "We can keep the goal of limiting global warming to just 1.5 degrees Celsius within our reach, if we come together, if we commit to doing our part of each of our nations with determination and with ambition. That's what COP26 is all about. Glasgow must be the kickoff of a decade, a decade of ambition and innovation to preserve our shared future."
The goal of limiting global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to pre-industrial levels was established in 2015 during COP21 in Paris.
The president also touted his "Build Back Better" plan that he said makes huge investments in clean energy while also creating the jobs needed to support the new infrastructure. Among them is building a network of 500,000 charging stations to support the increasing number of electric vehicles on U.S. roads. The measure has faced tough opposition in Congress but could be voted on this week.
"As we see current volatility in energy prices, rather than cast it as a reason to back off our clean energy goals, we must view it as a call to action," Biden said. "High energy prices only, only reinforce the urgent need to diversify … sources, double-down on clean energy development and adapt promising new clean energy technologies."
Biden said these actions will allow the U.S. to achieve the goal he set to reduce the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% by 2030.
The president also announced a long-term plan for the U.S. that aims to have net-zero emissions economy-wide by 2050.
"We're planning for both a short-term sprint to 2030 that will keep 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach and for a marathon that will take us, take us to the finish line and transform the largest economy in the world into a thriving, innovative, equitable and just clean-energy engine … for a net-zero world."
Biden also said the U.S. will make its first contribution to a global fund set up to help developing countries adapt to meet the challenges of climate change. He has also asked Congress to quadruple the amount of money being set aside for the contributions to the fund.
The U.S. has also signed on to an agreement with the European Union to reduce methane emissions, Biden said.
"There's no more time to hang back, or sit on the fence, or argue amongst ourselves," Biden said. "This is a challenge of our collective lifetimes -- the existential threat … to human existence as we know it -- and every day we delay, the cost of inaction increases."
Global action on climate change will be hard to accomplish without the cooperation of some of the world’s biggest polluters, such as China and Russia. Leaders from both nations are absent from the Scotland summit.