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US is racing to avert 'climate hell,' Biden tells COP27 summit in Egypt

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President Joe Biden speaking at the COP27 climate summit in Egypt on Nov. 11, 2022.
Source: Sean Gallup/Getty Images News via Getty Images

President Joe Biden took the stage at the international COP27 summit in Egypt on Nov. 11, announcing hundreds of millions of dollars in new climate investments in the U.S. and overseas.

"We're racing forward to do our part to avert the climate hell that the U.N. secretary-general so passionately warned about," Biden said in reference to a speech that António Guterres gave at the conference earlier in the week. "We're not ignoring harbingers that are already here."

Biden's speech fell short, however, for those who had hoped the U.S. would make a commitment to a fund compensating nations for climate loss and damage — a key issue at this year's summit. Although top climate envoy John Kerry has signaled the U.S. might be open to the idea, the administration has not yet contributed to such a fund.

As they arrived at the conference earlier in the day, the president and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., were heckled by activists yelling, "Pay up, pay up for loss and damage!"

Some observers noted that the commitments Biden outlined at COP27 do not reflect promises the administration made last year to ramp up assistance abroad.

"While the Biden administration has consistently reiterated its $11.4 billion annual climate pledge, U.S. officials have yet to outline a credible pathway to deliver on that promise," Ani Dasgupta, president and CEO of the World Resources Institute, said in a statement reacting to Biden's speech. "Despite headwinds, President Biden and members of the U.S. Congress must work in haste to get the country's international climate finance commitments on track."

Millions to help Africa adapt, prepare

Among the new or strengthened programs Biden outlined in his speech was doubling the U.S. contribution for the global Adaptation Fund to $100 million. The president also pledged more than $150 million in new emergency support to bolster adaptation and resilience programs in Africa, a continent ravaged by drought.

Included in assistance for Africa is a new contribution of $13.6 million to the World Meteorological Organization's effort to strengthen weather and water observations in Africa that will help vulnerable populations better prepare for climate-related disasters. Another $15 million will be allocated to early warning systems on the continent, according to a White House fact sheet.

In addition, the administration announced it will expand access to risk-based insurance for vulnerable nations and regions, providing the new G7 Global Shield against Climate Risks with $24 million in new support. The new initiative "will better protect vulnerable countries everywhere from climate-related losses and quickly respond to climate-related damages," Biden said.

The U.S. and Germany will invest more than $250 million with the goal of unlocking $10 billion in private-sector capital to help Egypt transition to cleaner energy. The initiative will deploy 10 GW of solar and wind energy in the country, allowing for 5 GW of inefficient natural gas-fired power plants to come offline and helping Egypt reduce power sector emissions by 10%.

Thanks to such cooperation, Egypt has been able to strengthen its pledge under the Paris Agreement on climate change, Biden said. At last year's climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, nations agreed to submit updated pledges by late September 2022, something only a handful did.

"If we're going to win this fight, every major emitter nation needs to align with the 1.5 degrees," Biden told COP27 delegates, in reference to the target for limiting global warming. "We can no longer plead ignorance to the consequences of our actions or continue to repeat our mistakes. Everyone has to keep accelerating efforts throughout this decisive decade."

Biden also touted his administration's emissions reduction efforts at home, citing an unprecedented nearly $370 billion for clean energy and climate investments provided by the bipartisan Inflation Reduction Act, and a new proposal to require federal contractors to meet Paris Agreement goals.

Earlier in the day, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rolled out proposed methane reduction regulations for oil and natural gas producers, a measure the administration said will reduce the equivalent of 810 million tons of carbon emissions between 2023 to 2035. Such actions put the U.S. on track to achieve its Paris Agreement goal of reducing emissions 50% below 2005 levels by 2030, Biden told the COP27 delegates.

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