President Joe Biden is expected to skip a U.N. summit next week where global leaders were asked to bring their ambitious plans to tackle climate change.
“Currently, the president is not scheduled to participate in the U.N. climate summit on Wednesday,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters Friday.
Biden is sending climate envoy John Kerry to represent the United States, a State Department spokesperson said Friday, but Biden’s absence is noteworthy at a forum where global leaders were invited to make sweeping climate commitments and highlight action ahead of global climate talks known as COP28 that kick off in late November.
“It’s a missed opportunity,” said Alden Meyer, a senior associate at climate think tank E3G. “To not have major leaders from developed countries there [at the U.N. summit] … it’s not a good signal when you’re trying to build momentum in the run-up to COP28 in Dubai and get other countries on board.”
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has been urging leaders to show up and demonstrate how they’re addressing climate change and its impacts.
He’s prioritizing speaking slots for leaders who aim to deliver remarks in line with his “ambition agenda,” which asks countries to fast-forward their targets for zeroing out emissions, phase out fossil fuels, and deliver aid to developing countries.
“This Climate Ambition Summit will showcase what we’re calling first movers and doers from governments, business, finance, local authorities and civil society, who are taking credible actions, implementing policies and plans to keep the 1.5-degree [Celsius] goal of the Paris agreement alive,” Selwin Hart, Guterres’ adviser on climate action, told reporters Friday. “The expectation is that leaders will respond positively.”
More than 100 nations have so far responded to the invite.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has secured a speaking slot, the E.U. delegation in New York confirmed.
But other leaders of some of the world’s major polluters aren’t expected to be in attendance, including British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The climate summit comes on the heels of a dire U.N. report last week that shows countries are failing to meet the pledges they made eight years ago in Paris to limit global temperature rise. They have just a few months to come up with a response at COP28.
Biden is slated to speak Tuesday in New York in his annual address to the U.N. General Assembly. “He will lay out for the world the steps that he and his administration have taken to advance a vision of American leadership that is built on the premise of working with others to solve the world’s most pressing problems,” Sullivan said Friday at the White House.
The president will meet with Guterres during his U.N. visit, Sullivan said. “They will cover both immediate hot spots and the longer-term trends,” he said.
Sullivan touted Biden’s accomplishments on climate and other policy issues ahead of the president’s speech at the United Nations.
Biden is heading to New York with the United States in “a position of strength and confidence,” Sullivan said, with “initiatives to deliver on infrastructure, on health, on climate and other global public goods.”