President Joe Biden to highlight US fight against climate change at Cop27

The leader of the world's No 1 greenhouse gas emitter will also discuss bilateral ties with Egypt's El Sisi

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US President Joe Biden will join Cop27, the UN climate summit in Egypt, on Friday to start a week-long foreign tour that will take him to Cambodia and Indonesia.

While in Egypt’s Red Sea resort city of Sharm El Sheikh, Mr Biden — whose country historically is the world’s worst greenhouse gas emitter — is expected to highlight his administration’s pledge to spend $375 billion over a decade to fight climate change.

That commitment is likely to give Washington leverage over other industrialised nations to honour their pledges to reduce emissions and steer the world away from fossil fuels and towards cleaner energy sources.

While in Cambodia, Mr Biden will attend a meeting of South-East Asian leaders before he flies to Bali, Indonesia, where he will be at the Group of 20 summit for leaders of the world’s largest economies.

In Sharm El Sheikh on Thursday, a senior Biden administration official told reporters that the US Environmental Protection Agency is taking a further step towards limiting methane emissions with a plan to intensify leak detection and repair requirements for all oil and gas wells.

The proposed rule would set a zero-emissions standard for pneumatic controllers and pneumatic pumps at facilities in all segments of the industry, they said.

“This supplemental proposal really pushes the envelope on every single thing we can do” to tackle emissions while allowing companies to employ “the best technologies” to search out and eliminate leaks, EPA Administrator Michael Regan said. The proposal will not be finalised until next year, he added.

Nancy Pelosi, the US House speaker and Mr Biden's fellow Democrat, who arrived in Sharm El Sheikh a day before the president, spoke on Thursday of her hope that Republicans, regardless of the outcome of this week’s midterm elections, would co-operate with the administration in efforts to save the planet.

Ms Pelosi met Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah El Sisi on Thursday night. Photos released by the Egyptian presidency showed the pair walking with their arms linked.

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah El Sisi with US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at Cop27 in Sharm El Sheikh. AFP

The highly unusual images were used by pro-government media as evidence of the close relations binding the two countries.

The two nations have had close ties since Egypt in 1979 became the first Arab nation to sign a peace treaty with Israel, Washington’s closest Middle East ally. Egypt has since received billions of dollars in US aid, including military assistance that currently runs at $1.3 billion a year. However, relations have occasionally become fraught, chiefly over Egypt’s human rights record.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Mr Biden would discuss human rights with Mr El Sisi, but it was not immediately clear whether he would demand the release of British-Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel Fattah.

The dissident, a key figure in the 2011 uprising that forced autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak to step down, this week escalated his seven-month, partial hunger strike by refusing liquids, his family said.

Laila Soueif holds up a photo of her son Alaa Abdel Fattah, a jailed Egyptian activist who this week escalated a hunger strike to demand his release. AP

The government says he is in good health and questions whether he is on a hunger strike.

The case of Abdel Fattah, serving a five-year sentence for spreading false news, has previously been raised with Mr El Sisi by the leaders of Britain, Germany and France. The three are among Egypt’s largest trade partners and western backers.

While in Egypt, Mr Biden will also discuss with Mr El Sisi the two nations' strategic partnership, the Israel-Palestinian conflict and regional security issues.

Separately, an assessment of carbon-dioxide emissions says the odds that nations will meet a key climate goal set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement are rapidly decreasing.

If the current rate of greenhouse-gas emissions continues, there is a 50 per cent chance the world will breach the 1.5ºC warming threshold in just nine years, according to the Global Carbon Budget annual report released at the UN climate summit.

CO2 releases are estimated to climb 1 per cent this year to a record, surpassing pre-pandemic levels. That increase translates into more than 300 million metric tonnes of pollution.

That 1 per cent “sounds benign”, said Rob Jackson, a Stanford professor and chair of the Global Carbon Project’s scientific steering committee. “One per cent growth is anything but benign.”

“It seems less and less likely that we’ll stay below 1.5 degrees,” said Pierre Friedlingstein, professor at the University of Exeter and lead author of the report.

The new report is the latest warning that the window to keep global warming below dangerous levels is rapidly closing.

Updated: November 11, 2022, 1:12 PM
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