President Joe Biden apologized for the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement on Friday as he addressed a major climate summit and outlined how transitioning away from fossil fuels can help the world avoid ‘climate hell.’
‘The climate crisis is about human security, economic security, environmental security, national security, and the very life of the planet,’ Biden said at the COP 27 summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.
He arrived there on Friday afternoon, the first leg of an around-the-world trip that will take him on to a meeting of Southeast Asian leaders in Cambodia and a Group of 20 summit on the Indonesian island of Bali.
In his speech, he also announced more than $150 million to help African nations prepare for the impacts of climate change.
But one of the biggest rounds of applause came when he described how his administration had rejoined the Paris Agreement, after President Donald Trump withdrew.
‘We immediately rejoined the Paris Agreement,’ said Biden.
‘We convened major climate summits and re-established … I apologise we ever pulled out of the agreement.’
Joe Biden apologized for America’s withdrawal from the Paris agreements Friday as he sought to reassure COP 27 delegates that Washington was serious about tackling climate change
Biden arrived in Egypt Friday to address the COP27 climate summit on the first leg of an around-the-world trip that takes him on to Cambodia and Indonesia
Air Force One touched down in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Friday after flying over the convention center where he will speak to climate delegates
Biden has been intent on showing partners that American is back, after the isolationism and unilateralism of the Trump years.
Friday’s speech was part of an effort to put his money where his mouth was, following passage of the Inflation Reduction Act and the biggest single spending package directed at climate change.
‘We’re racing forward to do our part to avert the “climate hell” that the UN secretary general so passionately warned about earlier this week.
‘We’re not ignoring harbingers that are right here. It’s true. So many disasters,’ he said.
‘Climate crisis is hitting hardest those countries and communities that have the fewest resources to respond and to recover.’
Earlier this week, António Guterres, the UN secretary general, told delegates the world was on a ‘highway to climate hell.’
For that reason, Biden said, it was vital to fund efforts to help poorer countries prepare for climate emergencies.
‘Today, as a down payment, we’re announcing more than $150 million in initiatives that’ specifically support preparedness, adaptation efforts throughout Africa, including adaptation in Africa, efforts that Egypt and the United States launched together in June.
‘This includes support for expanding early warning systems to help cover Africa, broadening access to climate finance, providing disaster risk protection, strengthening food security, mobilising the private sector and supporting a new training centre in Egypt.
Minutes after touching down Biden met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi
Biden praised the way el-Sisi had been an important ally after the Russian invasion of Ukraine
After his speech, he was asked how he would persuade Republicans to fund the spending plans.
‘Reality,’ he answered.
Biden was only due to spend a few hours in Egypt after Air Force One touched down in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
He first met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, praising his support for Ukraine.
Biden is under pressure to raise the issue of human rights with the Egyptian leader, but instead described how el-Sisi had been an important ally after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
‘In the face of Russia’s war in Ukraine, Egypt has spoken up strongly at the United Nations and that is appreciated very much as well,’ said Biden.
Reporters were then ushered from the room so private discussions could begin.
At the start of his week of high-level diplomacy Biden proclaimed that the US was back as a leader on climate change.
And he announced a rule cracking down on methane – a potent green house gas – emitted from all drilling sites, broadening a narrower regulation unveiled last year.
It may not be enough to placate protesters who briefly interrupted his speech with howls.
Biden faces calls for the U.S. to do more to help countries suffering the consequences of carbon emissions.
Increasing financial aid to poor countries has emerged as one of the key themes of the 13-day COP 27 climate conference.
They have the support of several European nations who have promised money – but pressure is growing on the U.S., historically the biggest producer of greenhouse gases, and China, which is now the leading emitter of carbon.
The U.S. and China must step up, said French President Emmanuel Macron earlier in the week.
‘Pressure must be put on rich non-European countries, telling them, “You have to pay your fair share,”‘ he said.
The U.S. has in the past been resistant to discussing the idea of ‘loss and damage’ as the issue is termed.
But John Kerry, Biden’s climate envoy, has raised the issue in speeches even though Congress has signaled its reluctance to embrace the idea of any kind of climate aid.
Human rights activists and climate activists, wearing white T-shirts to support political prisoners, hold demonstrations in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt
Biden spoke to reporters in Washington before leaving for Egypt on Thursday evening
Biden was also expected to discuss the Israel-Palestinian conflict and regional security issues with el-Sisi.
Before their meeting, the Egyptian leader said: ‘First of all I’d like to emphasize that the strength of the strategic relationship with the United States has not changed in over 40 years.
‘There has always been understanding regarding all the issues.’
He added that his country had launched a national strategy for human rights.
Biden responded: ‘I could listen to you much longer. No I’m serious.’
And he thanked him for hosting the COP27 summit
A day earlier, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Biden would raise human rights with el-Sisi, whose government has repeatedly been accused of abuses.
‘He feels you’re not the American president — you’re not really doing your job as American president — if you’re not raising issues of human rights,’ he told reporters at the White House.
He is expected to raise the case of imprisoned Egyptian pro-democracy activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah, who is on hunger strike