Vice President Kamala Harris will lead the US delegation to the first global climate summit, the White House announced Wednesday.
The White House stressed that President Joe Biden considers the climate crisis among his top four priorities, but that the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas has consumed much of his time and attention.
“Throughout her engagements, the Vice President will highlight the success of the Biden-Harris Administration in implementing the most ambitious climate agenda in history, both at home and abroad,” said Kirsten Allen, press secretary to the vice president.
Harris will lead dozens of senior U.S. officials, including the president’s special climate envoy John Kerry and other representatives from more than 20 agencies and departments, the White House said.
This year’s UN Conference of the Parties on Climate Change – known as COP28 because it is the 28th gathering of its kind – will be hosted by UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed. The royal, who took office after the death of his brother in 2022, is also chairman of the Supreme Petroleum Council, the emirate of Abu Dhabi’s main governing body for oil, gas and related industries.
Nearly 200 countries represented
More than 70,000 delegates from nearly 200 countries are beginning to converge on the city of Dubai, which has boomed from its roots as a fishing village, thanks to its immense oil wealth.
There, in a city known for its artificial archipelago and hyper-luxury boutiques in a shopping center that spans more than 50 football fields and contains an indoor ski slope and a penguin colony, they will assess progress toward the goal of limit global warming to 1.5. degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
In a statement, Biden said Harris would “show U.S. global leadership on climate, here and abroad” and “help galvanize increased global ambition during this critical event.”
She will attend meetings on Friday and Saturday in Dubai.
Earlier this week, when asked why Biden was not attending the summit, John Kirby, director of strategic communications at the National Security Council, said Biden was “more than capable” of handling his many responsibilities, but that the conflict in the Middle East had “obviously” been a recent concern.
“Race to the top”
VOA asked White House national climate adviser Ali Zaidi on Wednesday whether the United States would push for a deal committing countries to phase out fossil fuels by a certain date. In September, leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies failed to agree on this issue.
Washington, Zaidi responded, seeks to “gradually reduce emissions from the incessant burning of fossil fuels.”
That word – relentlessly – could be a sticking point in this year’s declaration, because it would allow new fossil fuel plants to open if they don’t already have proven technology to capture and store carbon emissions. carbon.
Already, an intergovernmental group of 117 countries has questioned this wording and indicated opposition to its inclusion.
“Emissions reduction technologies, which currently only exist on a limited scale, have a minor role to play in reducing emissions, mainly in hard-to-reduce sectors,” said the High Ambition Nature Coalition. and populations in a press release signed by ministers from 16 countries, including Austria. , Ethiopia and France. “However, they should not be used to delay climate action in sectors such as power generation, where feasible, effective and cost-effective mitigation alternatives are available, particularly in this critical decade when emissions must be reduced urgently and dramatically.”
Zaidi also highlighted Biden’s role in passing major climate legislation, the Inflation Reduction Act, which commits at least $370 billion to clean energy over the next 10 years – something Harris will also highlight during the meeting, administration officials told reporters at a press briefing. the case on Wednesday.
“This is a race to the top, hopefully, for clean energy,” Zaidi told VOA. “We want to lead this race, and the good news is that the more countries that join this race, the better off we will be in tackling these emissions. We need countries like China and other major economies to be those who reduce their emissions in a major way. We do this here at home.