Joe Biden travels to COP27 to demonstrate US leadership on climate

Joe Biden will arrive in Egypt on Friday for the UN climate summit and will join a slew of senior US officials and lawmakers to persuade world leaders that tackling climate change is high on Washington’s agenda.

Biden’s trip to the COP27 conference in Sharm el-Sheikh was surrounded by heightened security and movement controls in the resort town as the US delegation, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, arrived in advance. Foreign Minister Antony Blinken will also travel to Egypt with Biden before accompanying him to Indonesia next week for the G20 meeting.

This is happening as the US is under increasing pressure to meet developing world demands for more money from richer nations to fund climate projects and cover the damage caused by extreme weather events.

In recent days, as Washington has been consumed by midterm election drama, a series of UN-related scientific reports have confirmed the urgency of the need to combat mounting global warming.

Senior Biden officials framed the president’s trip as an opportunity to demonstrate “US leadership” on climate change after Congress passed its flagship climate law that earmarked $369 billion for clean energy initiatives.

But the US, the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and the largest in the past, is under pressure to further reduce its emissions to meet its pledge to cut them by 50 to 52 percent below that by 2030 under the Paris Agreement lower than 2005 levels.

Analysis by the Rhodium Group and other independent research organizations shows that the country is on track for a 31 to 44 percent reduction after accounting for the Inflation Reduction Act.

To meet its goals, analysts say the US must enact several federal regulations that regulate emissions from power plants and cars, and state governments must also push for more climate-friendly infrastructure and transportation policies.

Earlier this month, a UN report said the climate pledges being made by countries around the world were woefully insufficient, putting the world on a temperature rise of 2.4C to 2.6C by 2100.

As Washington works to meet its own promised emissions cuts, US diplomats continue to seek to use money to help other countries cut their carbon emissions.

US Climate Change Commissioner John Kerry on Wednesday touted a plan to use carbon credits to fund the replacement of coal-fired power with renewable energy in developing countries, with an estimated tens of billions of dollars to be raised by the world’s businesses, the Financial Times reports.

The US has also signaled an increasing willingness to work with poorer countries on the thorny issue of loss and damage funds, although private US officials have been cautious in supporting a new financing facility.

Kerry has also sought to restart stalled climate talks with China after Beijing halted retaliation for Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan in August. He said he had spoken with his counterpart Xie Zhenhua since arriving in Sharm el-Sheikh this week, but formal talks have not yet resumed.

US lawmakers, including Pelosi and leaders from the energy, trade and foreign policy committees, arrived in Egypt on Thursday after midterm elections turned out better than expected for Democrats.

Though the Democrats would likely lose control of the House, they won multiple districts and could retain control of the Senate.

The results have allayed unease among climate advocates that by the 2024 presidential election the US could be on track for a White House again controlled by Donald Trump, who withdrew the US from the Paris Agreement and reversed its climate policies. Several Trump-backed candidates failed to win, including Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania and Lee Zeldin in New York.

Senator Ben Cardin said in Sharm el-Sheikh this week that it was “important” that US lawmakers were in Egypt once the elections were completed.

Cardin said the US has been “generous” in funding programs to help developing countries meet climate goals, but must also be “aggressive in dealing with international commitments and doing our fair share.”

Ed Markey, the progressive Democratic Senator for Massachusetts, said there was “an absolute imperative” for the US to lead on international climate finance.

“We hear Pakistan, we hear Bangladesh, we hear the Marshall Islands, we hear all these countries,” Markey said. “You are right. We still have a lot more to do.”

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Adam Bradshaw

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