WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden plans to skip the annual climate talks in Dubai this week, an event that is expected to draw heads of state and diplomats from roughly 200 nations and the Vatican. He has attended twice before.
The White House said it was sending a climate team, including Special Envoy John Kerry, climate adviser Ali Zaidi and clean energy adviser John Podesta.
“Although we don’t have any travel updates to share for the president at this time, the administration looks forward to a robust and productive COP28,” said White House spokesman Angelo Fernández Hernández, adding that Biden’s team would continue to build on the administration actions “to tackle the climate crisis.”
Biden had also pledged to visit Africa before the end of the year, but that trip doesn’t appear to be happening, either. The White House offered no reasons, but the president has been deeply engaged in both the war in Ukraine and the Israel-Hamas conflict, as well as domestic battles with Congress over government funding.
The COP28 Conference
The two-week COP28 conference begins Thursday and is convened annually by the United Nations. COP stands for “Conference of the Parties” — the nations that agreed to a climate change framework drafted by the U.N. in 1992. It’s been held 28 times, so this year it’s called “COP28.”
Countries that signed the agreement promise to work to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions and prevent “dangerous” human interference with the climate system. Their goal is to move the globe off fossil fuels that are pushing up Earth’s temperatures.
This year the United Arab Emirates, the world’s fifth-largest oil producer, is hosting the climate talks. The conflicts in Eastern Europe and the Middle East could make cooperation between the nations even more difficult.
And Sultan al-Jaber was appointed as the president-designate, a decision roundly criticized by climate activists because he serves as the CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Co., which is seeking to boost its production of carbon-emitting crude oil and natural gas.
Biden’s Stance on Climate Change
Biden has called climate change the “ultimate threat to humanity.”
Earlier this month, he released an assessment on the state of climate change in America and said the issue was impacting all regions in the U.S. “Not just some, all,” he said. “Anyone who willfully denies the impact of climate change is condemning the American people to a very dangerous future,” he said.
Under his tenure, the U.S. passed the Inflation Reduction Act, America’s most significant response to climate change, and pushed toward more clean energy manufacturing. The act aims to spur clean energy on a scale that will bend the arc of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.