President Joe Biden arrives for the COP26 UN Climate Summit on Nov. 1, 2021, in Glasgow, United Kingdom for the United Nations Climate Change Conference. (Photo by Adrian Dennis – Pool/Getty Images)
President Joe Biden urged the international community on Monday to transition to clean energy, curb greenhouse gas emissions, including methane, and help developing nations adapt to a changing climate.
Speaking at a pivotal United Nations climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, Biden said worsening wildfires and once-in-a-century storms hitting every few years show that there’s only “a brief window” to take action to save the world from the worst effects of a changing climate.
At a round table with other world leaders following his speech to the whole conference, Biden also apologized for his predecessor, President Donald Trump, exiting the Paris Climate Accord, an international commitment to reducing emissions that the U.S. entered under President Barack Obama in 2016.
Every country, especially developed countries, must be committed to shared climate goals, Biden said.
“I guess I shouldn’t apologize, but I do apologize for the fact the United States in the last administration pulled out of the Paris Accords and put us behind the eight-ball a little bit,” he said.
The U.N. conference should be the beginning of a “decade of action,” he said.
The United States and other developed countries have a greater responsibility to address the global issues, Biden said. The White House announced a plan Monday to boost foreign aid spending to help developing countries manage climate impacts. The program would reach $3 billion by 2024.
“Those of us who are responsible for much of the deforestation and all the problems we have so far have an overwhelming obligation to the nations who in fact were not there, have not done it,” Biden said. “And we have to help, much more than we have so far.”
Biden committed to a “marathon” effort toward reaching net-zero U.S. emissions by 2050, as well as a “short-term sprint” to 2030 goals to keep global temperatures in check.
White House releases plan to cut emissions
The White House released a long-term strategy Monday to reach net-zero emissions by that mid-century point. The plan depends on switching to non-carbon energy sources, cutting methane emissions and boosting removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Biden promised to announce new initiatives in the coming days related to specific industries, including agriculture and oil and gas, and combating deforestation.
He also touted his $1.75 trillion “Build Back Better” spending plan that Congress may consider this week, depending on the outcome of negotiations among Democrats. It would provide $550 billion for climate initiatives, which aides say would be historic.
Biden said the legislation was “the most significant investment to deal with the climate crisis that any advanced nation has made.” The plan would lead the U.S. to cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 1 gigaton by 2030.
The plan provides tax credits for a variety of clean energy industries. Biden said that approach would also create many jobs.
Biden framed the goals as a return to the international climate community. Prior U.S. policy had fallen short of what was needed and his administration was “working overtime” to show the country is committed to “action, not words.”
But the spending framework, which includes major pieces of his climate agenda, has yet to pass Congress, even after months of negotiations.
Senate Republicans on Monday launched a renewed criticism of the Civilian Climate Corps, an $8 billion program intended to train young people for conservation careers that will help mitigate climate challenges.
In floor remarks last week circulated by his office Monday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called the program “pure socialist wish-fulfillment.”
About this report
States Newsroom’s special reporting on climate will continue throughout the COP 26 global climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland. This is the third in a series.
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