As younger Democrat voters have made climate change a priority, President Joe Biden’s latest decision may turn out to be a costly political move.
Biden is quietly skipping the annual Cop28 summit kicking off this week, an event he has attended in person in both 2021 and 2022. While climate czar John Kerry is scheduled to attend the conference, Biden’s absence from the event may hurt him among young Democrat voters who may feel he is not delivering on promises he made to place a high priority on environmental policies.
“It’s definitely a shame that he won’t be there. When he’s not part of the conversation, that shows the US that’s not fully at the table at the highest level,” Tom Evans, policy adviser for international climate think tank E3G, told CNN, adding that it is essentially a “missed opportunity” for the president who is running to be relected in 2024.
“This will be the final COP before the US election – the US election might happen during the next COP,” he added.
Though no official announcement has been made, an anonymous White House official confirmed to The New York Times on Sunday that Biden would not be in attendance at the two-week summit being held in Dubai where nearly 200 countries will be represented.
“The White House declined Monday to specifically say whether Biden would participate in the climate summit with world leaders, but National Security Council spokesman John Kirby pushed back on the notion that he was not traveling due to the Israel-Hamas conflict, saying he was ‘more than capable’ of handling his ‘global responsibilities,'” CNN reported.
“The move has the potential to frustrate climate advocates both at home and abroad, though some activists and small island nations have called into question the effectiveness of the annual international climate summit process,” the outlet added.
And while Vice President Kamala Harris will also not be attending the summit, Kerry will be there along with White House National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken. King Charles III and Pope Francis are expected to attend the event which kicks off this Thursday. Notably absent will be climate zealot Greta Thunberg who last year criticized the event as a space for “greenwashing.”
According to the UK’s Independent:
According to Mr Biden’s schedule, released by the White House on Sunday, he will spend this Thursday hosting a bilateral meeting with Angolan President João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço, then take part in the National Christmas Tree Lighting with First Lady Jill Biden.
On Sunday (3 December), he will attend the 46th Kennedy Center Honors where actor Billy Crystal and Bee Gees member Barry Gibb are among those being honoured with lifetime arts achievements.
His schedule is empty this coming Friday and Saturday – the same days that the Cop28 leaders’ summit will be held.
“Since day one, President Biden has led and delivered on the most ambitious climate agenda in history, both at home and abroad,” a White House spokesperson told Axios in a statement Sunday.
“He secured the largest climate investment ever, putting the U.S. on a path to cut climate pollution in half by 2030, protected more than 21 million acres of public lands and waters, and he continues to rally world leaders to raise their collective climate ambition,” the spokesperson added. “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 where Special Envoy John Kerry, National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi, and Senior Advisor John Podesta, among others, will continue to build on the Administration’s historic actions to tackle the climate crisis.”
Axios noted that Biden’s White House “has not categorically stated that Biden will not attend COP 28, so it’s possible he could make an appearance later on.”