Biden seeks climate progress support as Brazilian leader joins Summit of the Americas

US leader to meet President Jair Bolsonaro amid political ideology tension

US President Joe Biden speaks during the IV CEO Summit of the Americas, in Los Angeles, California. AFP
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President Joe Biden sought on Thursday to step up action on climate at the Summit of the Americas, with hopes for at least small progress with Brazil, whose far-right leader will soon meet him for a potentially tense meeting.

About two dozen leaders have descended on Los Angeles, California, for the summit, where Mr Biden urged both the public and private sectors to show that democracy can work.

The summit comes as China makes rapid inroads in Latin America, long viewed by Washington as its turf, although Mr Biden has steered clear of big-dollar pledges and has instead sought co-operation in targeted areas.

“We stand at an inflection point. More is going to change in the next 10 years than has changed in the last 30 years in the world,” Mr Biden told business leaders on Thursday.

“I find no reason why the Western Hemisphere over the next 10 years is not developed into the most democratic region in the world.”

President Joe Biden speaks at the IV CEO Summit of the Americas on June 9, 2022, in Los Angeles. AP

Mr Biden urged government and business leaders to make efforts to promote more equitable growth and "[kick] our action on climate change into high gear and [speed] our clean-energy transition”.

Both he and Vice President Kamala Harris will meet leaders of Caribbean nations that are particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels.

One outlier from the international chorus to battle climate change has been Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a champion of agribusiness amid erosion of the Amazon rainforest, which could disrupt a vital natural sink for the planet's carbon emissions.

Before Mr Biden's meeting with Mr Bolsonaro on Thursday, the White House said Brazil, Colombia and Peru would join a US-backed initiative to explore ways to reduce Amazon deforestation motivated by commodities industries.

The White House also said that Brazil and four other nations were joining a renewable energy initiative launched at last year's UN climate summit in Copenhagen.

In the pact, the countries promise to work towards a goal of 70 per cent renewables in their energy mix by 2030.

Despite coming under criticism over the Amazon, Brazil — the world's sixth most populous nation — has one of the least carbon-intensive economies for a major economy and already meets the goal on renewables, mostly through hydropower.

The meeting with Mr Bolsonaro could be awkward due to more than climate: the Brazilian leader was an ally of Mr Biden's predecessor Donald Trump and has appeared to follow the former president's playbook by claiming that Brazil's October elections are threatened by fraud.

On the eve of his trip, Mr Bolsonaro went further by backing Mr Trump's claims of irregularities in the 2020 US election — which was won by Mr Biden. There has been no evidence of widespread fraud.

“I do anticipate that the president will discuss open, free, fair, transparent democratic elections,” Jake Sullivan, Mr Biden's national security adviser, told reporters on Wednesday.

Mr Bolsonaro has trailed in early polls against his probable challenger, former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a major leftist figure who was jailed on controversial corruption charges.

While promising to work with leaders across ideology, Mr Biden has held firm against inviting the leftist leaders of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela on the grounds that they are autocrats.

His stance led to a boycott of the summit by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a crucial partner on addressing rising migration to the US.

Ms Harris started the week-long summit by announcing commitments of $1.9 billion by businesses in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras in hopes of creating jobs and discouraging migration.

Updated: June 09, 2022, 7:47 PM