The White House stated that President Joe Biden will not be present for the start of the global climate meeting in Dubai this week.
Nearly 200 nations will be present at the meeting, which will be attended by senior US officials such as special envoy John Kerry and White House National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi.
Since climate change remains a top concern for young people as we approach 2024, Biden has made it a central tenet of his policy platform and reelection campaign. Biden has made it a point to attend the annual UN climate summit in person in both 2021 and 2022 since becoming president. This year, Biden’s potential virtual participation is uncertain.
John Kirby, spokesman for the National Security Council, denied rumours that Vice President Joe Biden would skip the climate summit with world leaders because of the Israel-Hamas conflict, claiming Biden was “more than capable” of attending and fulfilling his “global responsibilities.” On Monday, the White House did not confirm whether Biden would attend or not.
Tom Evans, a policy advisor for the international climate think tank E3G, noted that although presidents of the United States have not always attended global climate summits, Biden’s absence would be noteworthy.
It is quite unfortunate that he will not be able to attend. In Evans’s words, “when he’s not part of the conversation, that shows the US that’s not fully at the table at the highest level.” Evans went on to call his absence a “missed opportunity” in the run-up to the 2024 election.
“The US election might happen during the next COP—this will be the final COP before the US election,” he told AWN.
Although some activists and tiny island states have questioned the efficacy of the yearly international climate summit process, the move has the ability to annoy climate campaigners worldwide. Last year, prominent Swedish youth campaigner Greta Thunberg chose not to attend the conference, claiming that it was a platform for “greenwashing.”
“The necessity to lead on the international stage on climate change hasn’t been seriously considered by Biden and previous presidents,” stated Stevie O’Hanlon, a representative for the Sunrise Movement, a young climate group, in an interview with AWN.
According to O’Hanlon, Sunrise Movement also has complaints about the climate meeting, which is being held in the oil-rich UAE this year and is therefore itself a source of controversy.
“But the United States can’t afford to ignore that,” O’Hanlon remarked.
The majority of Americans(57%) are unhappy with Biden’s handling of climate policy, with that number rising to 59% among those aged 18–29, according to a July poll by the Washington Post and the University of Maryland. While 74% of Democrats were satisfied with Biden’s handling of the matter, only 40% of independents and 8% of Republicans felt the same way. The Inflation Reduction Act, a landmark piece of climate policy legislation that Biden signed into law last year, was either not heard of or had not been read by the vast majority of Americans (71%).
There is a bigger trend in the way the administration is dealing with climate change in the run-up to the general election next year. Voters have a negative impression of Biden, and he is lagging behind Republican presidential nominee and former president Donald Trump in states that are considered to be in the hunt for nomination, according to recent polls. Meanwhile, the government has failed miserably in getting the word out about its crowning successes.
“He secured the largest climate investment ever, putting the U.S. on a path to cut climate pollution in half by 2030, protected more than 21 million acres of public lands and waters, and he continues to rally world leaders to raise their collective climate ambition,” said a White House spokesperson, citing the president’s climate agenda.
“Although we do not have any new information regarding the president’s travel plans at this time, we are excited about the upcoming COP28. Special Envoy John Kerry, National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi, and Senior Advisor John Podesta, among others, will continue to build on the historic actions taken by the administration to address the climate crisis,” the spokesperson added.
Xi Jinping, president of China, is also unlikely to make an appearance at the conference. In a recent announcement, the United States and China committed to significantly reducing their emissions that contribute to global warming.