President Joe Biden has urged world leaders to “double down” on their resolve to fight global warming, saying Russia’s invasion of Ukraine reinforces the need to phase out fossil fuels.
“We can no longer plead ignorance to the consequences of our actions, or continue to repeat our mistakes,” Mr Biden said.
The president’s brief attendance at the United Nations climate conference, known as Cop27, was largely a victory lap as he emphasised new spending on clean energy initiatives that will “change the paradigm” for the United States and the rest of the world.
But Mr Biden glossed over how he has pushed for more oil and gas production to bring down costs that have been politically troublesome at home, and fuelled the invasion of Ukraine by allowing Russia to fetch higher prices for its energy exports.
Mr Biden spent just three hours in Egypt, including a meeting with the country’s autocratic leader, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, before continuing on an around-the-world trip.
His next stop was Cambodia for a meeting of Southeast Asian leaders and then Indonesia for the annual Group of 20 summit of the world’s largest economies.
Mr Biden left Washington late on Thursday buoyed by a stronger-than-expected showing by the Democratic Party in Tuesday’s midterm elections, earlier congressional passage of the largest climate investment in US history and Russian military setbacks on the Ukrainian battlefield.
At the climate conference, Mr Biden discussed a new supplemental rule that will crack down on methane emissions, expanding on a similar regulation his administration released last year.
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that contributes significantly to global warming.
Mr Biden also spotlighted one of his key domestic successes — the Democrats’ massive healthcare and climate change bill known as the Inflation Reduction Act.
The US commitment of some 375 billion dollars over a decade to fight climate change gives Mr Biden greater leverage to press other nations to fulfil their pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and shift the global economy toward cleaner energy sources.
Mr Biden said the spending, part of broader economic legislation he signed into law this year, will ensure the US hits its target for reducing emissions by 2030.
Mr Biden argued that “good climate policy is good economic policy,” and he called on all major emitting countries to “align their ambition” to the international goal of trying to limit future global warming to 1.5C, according to the White House.
But even with these fresh efforts, America and the world have a long way to go to meet emissions targets that scientists hope will contain global warming. And the political will for more investment is shrinking.
Mr Biden acknowledged that climate crises are “hitting hardest those countries and communities that have the fewest resources to respond and recover,” a reference to a leading issue at the summit.
Known as “loss and damage,” it involves asking rich countries like the United States, the top historic polluting nation, to pay what are essentially reparations for damages caused to poorer vulnerable nations that do not emit much heat-trapping carbon dioxide.
Mr Biden announced in his speech the US would contribute 150 million dollars “as a down payment” to initiatives to help Africa adapt to the changing climate.