The US president struck an optimistic tone at the end of his two days at the Glasgow climate summit but said he remained “worried” about the climate crisis, and that more work needed to be done.
He criticised China for its absence, saying they wanted to be world leaders but were “walking away” on the issue.
Speaking to the press before leaving the climate conference, the president said: “It’s a gigantic issue and they’ve walked away.”
“The fact China [is] trying to assert, understandably, a new role in the world as a world leader, not showing up, come on!” President Biden added.
“The rest of the world is going to look to China and say what value added are they providing and they’ve lost in building influence with people around the world and all the people here at Cop,” he said.
The president noted that by attending the climate conference, after Donald Trump’s essentially hostile stance on the environment, the US has made “a profound impact on the way the rest of the world is looking at the United States in its leadership role.”
When asked why the US should commit to contributing funding to combat the climate crisis, if Russia, China, and India will not, Mr Biden said: “Because we want to be able to breathe. And we want to lead the world.”
The president noted that the climate crisis presented “a gigantic opportunity” to improve economies and that most world leaders know that.
“They know that growth rests in dealing with the economy in a way that affects the whole notion of what we’re going to do about climate change,” he said.
Also present in the room were John Kerry, Mr Biden’s special envoy for climate, and Antony Blinken, secretary of state.
The president called the conference a success, saying he believed “we got a lot done”, that there were “a lot of substantive meetings”, and that it was “critically important for the United States to be here”.
In reaction to Mr Biden’s press conference, Jean Su, energy justice director at the Center for Biological Diversity, commented: “We saw the whiplash of his rhetoric on climate in action. First, he asks Opec to pump more oil, then describes his worry about the horrors of climate change. To set his climate ambition straight, it would be profound and game-changing for him to return to Washington and declare a national climate emergency to halt crude oil exports. That’s just one of the tools Biden has to take transformative action on climate without Congress.”
She added: “Biden sounds just as worried as the rest of us, but he has power unlike anyone else’s. For the sake of us and the planet, he has to use it.”
Among the achievements of the conference, were pledges by world leaders to protect the earth’s forests, massively reduce methane emissions, and help South Africa move away from its dependence on coal.
The UK said it has received pledges from leaders representing more than 85 per cent of the world’s forests to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030. Among them are several countries with massive forests, including Brazil, China, Colombia, Congo, Indonesia, Russia, and the United States. More than $19bn in public and private funds have been pledged toward the plan.
Mr Biden’s administration launched the plan to reduce methane emissions as part of a broader effort with the European Union and other nations to reduce the overall worldwide total by 30 per cent by 2030.
Separately, the US, Britain, France, and Germany announced the plan to provide $8.5bn in loans and grants over five years to help South Africa phase out coal. South Africa gets about 90 per cent of its electricity from coal-fired plants, a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.
With additional reporting by The Associated Press
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