Saturday, July 20

Absence from COP28 summit complicates Biden’s climate credentials

Absence from COP28 summit complicates Biden’s climate credentials

President Biden signed the nation’s first major climate law and is overseeing record federal investment in clean energy. In each of the past two years, he has attended the annual United Nations climate summit, asserting American leadership in the fight against global warming.

But this year, probably the hottest in history, Mr. Biden is staying home.

Mr. Biden will not travel to the Dubai summit, according to a White House official who asked to remain anonymous to discuss the president’s agenda. Aides says he is consumed with other global crises, including trying to secure the release of hostages held by Hamas in its war with Israel and working to persuade Congress to approve aid to Ukraine in his fight against Russia.

At home, Mr. Biden’s climate and energy policies face competing political pressures. Worried about Republican attacks that Mr. Biden is pursuing a “radical green agenda,” centrists in his party want him to talk more about the fact that the United States has produced record amounts of crude oil this year. At the same time, climate activists, particularly young voters who helped elect Mr. Biden, want the president to end drilling altogether.

Internationally, developing countries are pushing Mr. Biden to deliver on his promises of billions of dollars to help tackle climate change. But congressional Republicans, who control spending, scoff at the idea and have been unable to reach agreement among themselves on issues such as aid to Israel and Ukraine.

By bypassing the climate summit known as COP28, Mr. Biden is missing an opportunity to strengthen his climate credentials, said Michele Weindling, political director of the Sunrise Movement, a youth climate activist group.

“If Biden wants to be taken seriously by the country’s youth and the rest of the world on climate, he must use every tool at his disposal to mobilize the American government to save lives,” she said. declared.

David Victor, co-director of the Deep Decarbonization Initiative at the University of California, San Diego, was more blunt. “He must really be worried about the cohesion of the left and his re-election,” Mr. Victor said.

Mr. Biden angered environmental groups by authorizing new oil leases, including the Willow oil project on Alaska’s North Slope. He also accelerated liquid gas exports to Europe as that country faced an energy crisis following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, helping to make the United States the largest gas exporter in the world.

The United States has produced a record amount of crude oil under Mr. Biden’s leadership, and the president has urged fossil fuel companies to produce enough to prevent gas prices from soaring. At the pump, gas prices averaged $3.25 per gallon nationwide Monday, higher than pre-pandemic levels but down 30 cents from a year ago.

But he also signed the largest climate law in American history, the Inflation Reduction Act, which injects at least $370 billion in government subsidies into technologies, like solar panels and electric cars, intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. His administration also proposed strict new limits on emissions from tailpipes and smokestacks.

Republicans have accused the president of waging a war on American energy, and candidates vying to try to unseat Mr. Biden have promised to open federal lands to far more oil and gas drilling.

That led some in the Democratic Party to urge Mr. Biden to talk about oil production. Earlier this month, a new polling group called Blueprint, which is dedicated to helping Democrats craft winning messages for the 2024 election, said Mr. Biden was failing to make voters aware of this. which the group called “moderate” policy achievements – including “delivering historic results.” “number of oil and gas drilling permits”.

At the same time, some conservation groups are calling on Mr. Biden to stop all new drilling. The Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental action group, published a report on Monday, calculating that greenhouse gas emissions from new oil and gas projects approved by Mr. Biden will exceed the emissions reductions from all of his climate policies combined.

Administration officials privately say their hopes of Mr. Biden attending a third consecutive summit — which would have set an attendance record for a U.S. president — were complicated by the outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas . Mr. Biden has devoted a lot of time and energy to this conflict, including making a surprise trip to Israel.

He certainly would have had to make another trip to Israel, and probably other countries in the region, if he had chosen to attend the climate conference, Aides said.

On Monday, some senior officials made a last-ditch effort to persuade Mr. Biden to reconsider his plans and go to the summit, which runs through mid-December, even though they appear unlikely to succeed.

More than 100 other world leaders are expected to appear in Dubai, including King Charles III, Pope Francis, French President Emmanuel Macron, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

But like Mr Biden, Chinese President Xi Jinping will not attend the event. Instead, China, which is currently the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, will be represented by Ding Xuexiang, a senior adviser to Mr. Xi.

Mr. Xi and Mr. Biden met in California earlier this month and agreed to work toward accelerating renewable energy that could replace fossil fuels.

If the two men reconsidered their decision and showed up in Dubai, it would “give a moral boost to everyone” at the summit, said Ani Dasgupta, president of the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based environmental think tank.

“This is a very difficult time for the world,” he said.

In Dubai, leaders are expected to discuss their progress, or lack thereof, in limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. That’s the threshold beyond which scientists say humans will struggle to adapt to intensifying wildfires, heatwaves, droughts and storms. In 2015, at the Paris summit, countries agreed to reduce emissions from burning coal, oil and gas to keep global warming “well below 2 degrees Celsius” and ideally no more than 1 .5 degrees Celsius.

The planet has already warmed by an average of 1.2 degrees Celsius.

“A lot of the conversation will be, ‘Is 1.5 still alive?’ ” said Joseph Majkut, director of the energy security and climate change program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a research center in Washington. “The reality is this is going to be incredibly difficult to achieve.”

A major question at the summit will be whether nations will agree to phase out fossil fuels, the burning of which is the main driver of climate change.

“What we’re advocating for here are sensible policies that everyone can get behind and actually implement,” said John Kerry, Mr. Biden’s special envoy for climate change, who will be in Dubai. “There are 199 countries at the COP with very varied views on this issue. So we will work to get the best possible language.

Keith Bradsher reports contributed.