SHARM El-SHEIK, Egypt – President Joe Biden says the United States is “putting our money where our mouths” on efforts to fight climate change.
Speaking at the COP27 conference in Egypt, Biden took a round of victory over the health and climate spending legislation he signed over the summer, telling the meeting: “We prove that good climate policy is good economic policy.”
Russia’s war on Ukraine has pushed up food and energy costs around the world, fueling the search for alternatives to its oil and gas exports.
Increasing energy supply volatility makes it “more urgent than ever that we double down” on clean energy solutions, Biden said.
- Why the President is in Egypt: COP27, the United Nations’ annual meeting of the 197 countries that have agreed to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, originally adopted in 1992.
- Why it’s important: The Assembly is the decision-making body of the countries that have signed the framework. It is held to assess how well countries are coping with climate change.
- How long will he be there: Biden will spend only a few hours in Sharm; he will leave Friday afternoon for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) conference.
- Who he meets with: Biden held a bilateral meeting with COP27 host and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi when he arrived.
- On the American agenda: Biden brought up Russia’s war on Ukraine with el-Sisi and indicated that they would discuss human rights.
- Biden’s big moment: The main event was Biden’s climate remarks. He reiterated that America is on track to cut its emissions by 50% by 2030 from 2005 levels.
- Who is in his entourage: Secretary of State Antony Blinken, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Presidential Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry and EPA Administrator Michael Regan.
- What he announced: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced an updated proposal Friday to reduce methane emissions. Regan said the proposal aims to reduce emissions and energy waste by 87% below 2005 levels.
What’s going to happen?
Biden travels from Sharm el-Sheikh to Phnom Penh, where he will meet with Southeast Asian leaders.
He will have a bilateral meeting with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and attend a gala on Saturday. Biden plans to talk to leaders attending the conference about maintaining peace and stability in the region, amid high-level tensions between China and Taiwan.
- At a press conference ahead of Biden’s arrival, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi highlighted the United States’ “strong” economic and security relationship with Egypt.
- “In terms of saving the planet, it’s very close. That’s what we’re here for,” Pelosi said.
- She praised the Inflation Reduction Act and said it was “the source of many positive conversations” with world leaders at the conference.
- Joseph Majkut, director of the energy security and climate change program at CSIS, said ahead of Biden’s trip that the climate spending bill would be a top talker.
- “Now that the IRA is on the books, the president will want to say that the US is leading the way in emissions reductions. What are other countries doing to achieve their goals?” he said.
- “I hope his message will be that the world needs to stay strong on their promises and that climate cooperation can act as a kind of catalyst for addressing all these multiple crises that we are now dealing with, which are really just from our broken relationship with nature. said Anne Christianson, director of International Climate Policy at the Progressive Center for American Progress.
- US climate envoy John Kerry said at a Chatham House forum last month that the US is committed to helping countries “start up” their green energy transition.
- “But if it just becomes some kind of liability, and compensation and reparation or something, that’s not going to foster dialogue,” Kerry said.
Why it matters
President Joe Biden’s raid on a global UN climate change conference comes on the heels of the most momentous climate legislation in the country’s history.
But there is also frustration among many countries, with some leaders viewing US efforts as too little, too late.
Biden is unlikely to be able to deliver on a pledge to spend $11 billion on international climate aid by 2024, especially if Republicans take control of the House.
His administration said this week it is considering other ideas floating around the top to help low-income countries that emit less greenhouse gases but are expected to be most affected by global warming.
Ahead of Biden’s comments Friday, the White House has drafted a plan that includes doubling the United States’ commitment to the Adaptation Fund, which funds projects and programs in developing countries to help address the effects of climate change. Biden will pledge $100 million to the fund, up from the $50 million pledged by the United States last year.
More than 33,000 delegates from more than 190 countries attend the 13-day conference in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, known for its sandy beaches and coral reefs and a major tourist destination for divers.
Biden is the only leader of the three largest CO2 emitting countries in the world to attend. Neither President Xi Jinping of China nor Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India is in attendance.
The president is considering a re-election bid and the visit will help him show climate activists, who are an important part of Biden’s political base, that he is prioritizing efforts to reduce emissions.