The vice president, the highest-ranking American official to attend after president Joe Biden decided to skip the summit, also used her visit to the Middle East to address the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.
Harris landed on Saturday in the United Arab Emirates where she was greeted on the tarmac by US ambassador Martina Strong and Sarah bint Yousef Al Amiri, the UAE minister of state for advanced technology.
She was then whisked straight to the Dubai Expo venue where she spoke to hundreds of world leaders inside the packed Al Hairat auditorium.
From the stage, Harris warned that around the world “there are those who seek to slow or stop our progress”.
“Leaders who deny climate science, delay climate action and spread misinformation. Corporations that greenwash their climate inaction and lobby for billions of dollars in fossil fuel subsidies,” she said.
The vice president added: “Continued progress will not be possible without a fight.”
Harris has joined a coterie of senior officials in Dubai including the US top climate negotiator, secretary John Kerry, secretary of state Antony Blinken, White House national climate adviser Ali Zaidi and EPA administrator Michael S Regan, in a bid to reinforce that the climate crisis remains top of America’s agenda despite Biden’s absence.
The US also announced on Saturday:
- The country would build no new coal-fired power plants;
- New domestic rules that force oil companies to cut methane by monitoring leaks and banning routine flaring
- A deal with 118 countries to triple the world’s renewable energy capacity by 2030.
The $3bn for the Green Climate Fund comes after the US was criticized for its “embarrassing” pledge of $17.5m to the new Loss and Damage fund for vulnerable nations when the UAE, Germany and Italy promised $100m (£78m).
The US has made slashing methane, which leaks from oil and gas operations, landfills and livestock, a central pillar of its Cop28 agenda, and wants more countries to commit to cuts, building on an agreement it signed last month with China. The potent greenhouse gas has about 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over 20 years.
Harris also used her UAE trip to discuss the Israel-Hamas war as the highest-ranking US official to visit an Arab country since the conflict broke out in October.
National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said Harris will discuss “our desire to see this pause restored, our desire to see aid getting back in, our desire to see hostages get out” with regional leaders.
Israel has intensified attacks on Gaza in recent days after the collapse of a week-long truce.
President Biden decided to skip Cop28 as he deals with a host of domestic and international problems.
He briefly attended Cop27 in Egypt last year, and put in several days at Cop26 in Scotland in 2021.
Climate advocates shared their dismay at his absence.
“President Biden’s failure to attend Cop28 is a clear signal that he’s not willing to confront US oil and gas production at this summit,” Jean Su, energy justice director at the Center for Biological Diversity, told The Independent.
“Fossil fuels are finally center stage at this Cop, and we should have the president here pushing for the boldest, fastest fossil fuel phaseout.
“President Biden’s absence on this crucial world stage shows he’s not taking that phaseout seriously at the time when we need it most. It’s critical that his team commit to fully phasing out fossil fuels in the final decision text.”
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