President Biden is traveling to a global climate meeting with a massive domestic investment in tow, and he will undoubtedly be asked how far the United States will go to get other major greenhouse gas emitters to follow suit.
His appearance at the COP27 climate conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on Friday is the first stop on an around-the-world journey that will also take him to a meeting of Southeast Asian leaders in Cambodia and a Group of 20 summit meeting of the world’s leading economies in Bali, Indonesia.
Mr. Biden boarded Air Force One late Thursday, emboldened by the Democratic Party’s stronger-than-expected performance in Tuesday’s midterm elections, the ratification of the greatest climate investment in U.S. history by Congress this year, and Russian military failures on the Ukrainian battlefield.
At the climate conference, Mr. Biden will outline a new rule that will go into effect on Friday to restrict methane emissions, a measure that extends on a regulation his administration issued last year.
Unlike earlier Environmental Protection Agency restrictions, the 2021 rule targeted emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes significantly to global warming, from existing oil and gas wells across the country. However, this year’s legislation goes a step further and targets all drilling sites, including tiny wells that release less than 3 tons of methane annually.
In addition, he will highlight one of his major domestic achievements: the Inflation Reduction Act, the Democrats’ enormous health care and climate change plan.
The U.S. contribution of approximately $375 billion over a decade to combat climate change provides Vice President Biden with greater leverage to encourage other governments to fulfill their commitments to decrease greenhouse gas emissions and shift the global economy to cleaner energy sources.
The president will be in a far different position than he was at last year’s meeting, which occurred amid a very difficult period on the bill’s long journey to passage.
This conference resulted in new global commitments to fulfill the temperature targets outlined in the Paris Climate Accord, which Mr. Biden rejoined after his predecessor, Donald Trump, withdrew the United States from the agreement.
According to the White House, Mr. Biden will also argue that “good climate policy is good economic policy” in his remarks, while calling on all major emitting nations to “align their ambition” with the international goal of attempting to limit future global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).
Even with these renewed efforts, the United States and the rest of the globe have a long way to go in order to attain the emission levels that scientists think will limit global warming. Moreover, as the global economy faces fresh headwinds, the political desire to invest more is diminishing.
Wednesday at the COP27 summit, former U.S. vice president and climate activist Al Gore referred to Biden as a “climate hero in my book,” adding that “the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act represents the most significant pro-climate legislation ever passed by any nation in the history of the planet.”
It remained to be seen if Vice President Biden would address the most pressing issue at the climate negotiations: loss and damage. This is international negotiating jargon for requesting wealthy nations, such as the United States, the most polluting nation in history, to pay for damages caused to poorer, more vulnerable nations that release less heat-trapping carbon dioxide.
In the past, the United States was opposed to even discussing the matter, but it has since changed its attitude and consented to its discussion. John Kerry has even acknowledged it in public remarks. However, the United States does not want liability to be a part of any agreement, and Congress and the public have been reluctant to embrace various sorts of climate help, with this being the most problematic.
Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of climate and global politics at Princeton University, said, “I wish the U.S. will say something positive about loss and damage” because it would move forward a critical problem.
After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the turmoil on the world’s energy markets muted the global enthusiasm for transitioning away from fossil fuels. Biden is pressuring oil and gas producers at home and abroad to increase production to satisfy demand and reduce prices that have fueled the Kremlin’s war campaign.
As large emitters such as China and India send lower-level delegations, the likelihood of a significant agreement diminishes further. Instead of portraying the summit as a return to U.S. leadership on the problem, Biden administration officials have attempted to downplay expectations for results and portray it as a return to U.S. leadership.
Biden leaves Washington while votes are still being counted in pivotal elections that will determine control of both chambers of Congress. Nonetheless, the president felt the wind at his back as Democrats outperformed expectations. While he was abroad, he was certain to learn the results of the races that will have a significant impact on his capacity to get things done in Washington.
During his time in Egypt, Vice President Biden will meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to address the strategic cooperation between the two nations, the Israel-Palestine conflict, and regional security challenges.
Thursday, Egypt’s foreign minister Sameh Shoukry told The Associated Press that he interpreted Mr. Biden’s visit to Sharm el-Sheikh as “an indicator of the political resolve to move the process forward” in terms of combating global warming.
“We hope… it will resonate within the collective will of the negotiating groups to which the United States is a party, as well as create momentum for the conference, so that the parties deliver what is expected,” he stated.
Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national security advisor, stated that Biden would also bring up the matter of human rights when he talks with El-Sisi, whose administration has taken an authoritarian turn, and other world leaders during the trip.
“He believes that you are not the American president — that you are not doing your job as the American president — if you do not raise human rights problems,” Sullivan explained. You can anticipate that he will bring up human rights concerns in that meeting, as he will with other G-20 leaders.
Mr. Biden and other top officials will also lobby for the release of imprisoned Egyptian pro-democracy activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah, whose family was told by prison officials on Sunday that he was receiving an unspecified medical intervention in the midst of an intensifying hunger strike.
After a brief stop in Egypt, the president will travel to Cambodia for a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to reaffirm the United States’ commitment to the region in the face of China’s growing aggression.
The president will then hold his first meeting as president with the newly empowered Chinese President Xi Jinping in Indonesia. Xi Jinping was awarded a norm-breaking third, five-year term as the Chinese Communist Party leader at the party’s national congress last month, amidst deteriorating U.S.-China relations.
The White House has been coordinating the meeting with Chinese officials for the past few weeks. Biden told reporters on Wednesday that he planned to discuss with Xi escalating tensions between Washington and Beijing over Taiwan, trade policy, Beijing’s connection with Russia, and other issues.
Mr. Biden stated, “When we speak, I want to lay out each of our red lines and understand what he considers to be in China’s vital national interests and what I know to be the vital interests of the United States.” “Determine if they are in conflict with one another.”
Mr. Biden will also meet with two essential new allies in the campaign to bolster Ukraine’s defense: the British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that he would not attend the events, so avoiding an embarrassing confrontation. Sullivan stated that the president has no plans to interact with Sergey Lavrov, who is attending in place of Vladimir Putin.
Mr. Biden will also discuss North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs with the leaders of South Korea and Japan during a trilateral meeting in Cambodia.
Kim provided a report from Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Seth Borenstein in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, as well as Chris Megerian and Aamer Madhani in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.