Kamala Harris gives a speech at Cop28, with varying responses to the United States’ promises on climate change.
Kamala Harris addressed the Cop28 summit, stating that the world is at a critical turning point in the climate crisis. The US has committed to discontinuing the use of coal plants and reducing methane emissions. However, the country faced criticism for providing inadequate aid to developing nations and for its significant oil and gas extraction industry.
The US vice-president, filling in for Joe Biden who was absent from the UN climate talks, stated that Biden’s administration has made a significant investment in addressing climate change through the Inflation Reduction Act, which some have deemed the largest in our nation’s history.
The current state of the world’s efforts to combat the climate crisis is concerning, according to Harris. She also cautioned against the potential risks of those who oppose taking action on climate change, potentially alluding to Donald Trump, who may be running against Biden and Harris in the upcoming election.
“This is a critical moment – our decisions as a whole, or lack thereof, will have lasting effects on billions of individuals for generations,” Harris addressed the attendees, which included numerous global leaders, at the conference in the United Arab Emirates. “Across the globe, there are individuals who aim to impede or halt our advancements. Leaders who reject the evidence of climate change, postpone taking action, and spread false information.”
During his visit to Dubai, Harris addressed the ongoing conflict in Gaza and was the most prominent American participant at the summit, which has brought together delegates from almost 200 nations for a two-week meeting. Biden, who recently oversaw the annual lighting of the White House Christmas tree, opted not to join the trip due to multiple global crises, including the Israel-Hamas situation.
At Cop28, the American representatives have announced significant measures, such as implementing strict guidelines to reduce methane emissions from their oil and gas industry and committing to not constructing any additional coal-fired power plants.
Harris revealed plans to inject $3 billion (£2.4 billion) into the Green Climate Fund, which seeks to enhance the use of renewable energy and build resilience against climate change globally. However, this allocation would require approval from the US Congress, which is partially influenced by Republicans who generally oppose climate crisis solutions.
John Kerry, the climate representative for Biden, has praised the advancements made in the US and globally regarding climate during his visit to Dubai. “I am filled with optimism,” he stated on Saturday. “Being in Dubai, I sense a significant change taking place.” Kerry acknowledged that the US, under Biden’s leadership, has taken on a leading role in encouraging nations to reduce emissions and combat deforestation.
The US has been criticized for the lack of representation by Biden and for only committing $17.5m (£13.8m) to the loss and damage fund, which was created to support developing countries that are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Climate activists have labeled the donation from the wealthiest nation as “embarrassing”.
Climate activists are concerned about the US’s continued growth in fossil fuel drilling. The US is already the top producer of oil and gas, and is projected to set new extraction records this year. Despite President Biden’s promises to prioritize environmental protection, his administration has continued to grant drilling leases at a similar pace to that of former President Trump. This includes controversial projects like the Willow oil complex in Alaska, and the approval of extensive gas export infrastructure development along the Gulf of Mexico coastline.
Al Gore, the ex-vice president of the United States who now advocates for climate action, commented on the country’s progress, stating that it was somewhat varied. He expressed that the announcement regarding methane is positive and beneficial. Additionally, he highlighted the Inflation Reduction Act as the most remarkable and effective climate legislation to have been passed by any nation, in an interview with the Guardian.
“Although President Biden and his team have made positive strides, there is still cause for concern regarding the ongoing leasing of oil and gas drilling rights on public lands. It is crucial to weigh the good actions taken by the administration with a valid expression of worry regarding the leasing.”
The unveiling of the American pavilion at Cop28 showcased a sense of uneasiness, as a team of environmental activists defied limitations on free speech at the conference by voicing their demands to eliminate fossil fuels and displaying stickers advocating for a transition away from them. One of the demonstrators, John Beard, stated, “It’s contradictory to discuss reducing emissions while simultaneously promoting more exploration, leasing, and drilling.”
Beard, a former Exxon engineer who now campaigns against the industry’s impact upon communities along the Gulf coast, added: “You can’t talk about decarbonising when you’re re-carbonising, it doesn’t make sense. Talk is cheap and sending your big dog officials here isn’t going to do it, it’s action that will do it.”