President Biden’s COP27 Speech Highlights Climate Progress, but the U.S. Is Still Falling Behind on Global Climate Obligations

Statement by Rachel Cleetus, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Nov 11, 2022

Sharm El-Sheikh (November 11, 2022)—Today, U.S. President Joe Biden addressed COP27, the annual U.N. climate conference, speaking on efforts to tackle the global climate crisis. Biden’s administration has achieved some important wins on the path to a safer climate. However, there’s still a lot of work to do—and on the international stage, the U.S. must do more to support robust and fair global solutions, including meeting its climate finance commitments and agreeing to set up a finance facility for loss and damage at COP27, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

Below is a statement by Rachel Cleetus, the policy director and lead economist for the Climate and Energy Program at UCS.

“President Biden’s address at COP27 comes at a time when the urgency of the climate crisis is clear, but so is the significant shortfall in actions to address it globally—especially from richer countries like the United States. The opportunity is there for the U.S. to finally live up to its responsibilities on the global stage, and the time is now.

“The president rightly pointed to the Inflation Reduction Act as a historic step forward. This law is a hard won and important contribution to efforts to cut U.S. heat-trapping emissions. It will drive significant investments in clean energy, clean transportation, resilient agriculture, and good-paying domestic jobs and help clean up pollution, especially in marginalized communities. The administration has also taken important executive actions to put the U.S. on better climate footing, including by cutting methane emissions, as announced today, and with more standards to come to reduce vehicle and power plant emissions.

“But with the latest science showing that the global emissions trajectory is far off track, and with devastating and costly climate impacts already taking a harsh toll on people in the U.S. and around the world, the U.S. must take bolder action to cut its emissions, together with other major emitting nations, and increase investments in climate resilience.

“The U.S. is the world’s richest country and the largest contributor to the cumulative heat-trapping emissions that are driving climate change. Yet the United States has repeatedly and shamefully failed to meet its commitments to provide robust public climate finance for low- and middle-income countries to transition to clean energy and adapt to climate change. Last year, President Biden committed to providing $11.4 billion by 2024–now, he must put the full weight of his office behind meeting that obligation, working together with Congress, including in the upcoming budget cycle. The president’s announcements related to contributions to various international initiatives, including the Adaptation Fund, the PREPARE initiative and Global Shield, are welcome but far from sufficient given the scale of the challenge.

“Extreme climate impacts, beyond the bounds of ordinary adaptation measures, are already triggering loss and damage in many climate vulnerable countries, which will grow as climate change worsens. At this ‘Africa COP,’ President Biden must also commit to addressing this deeply unjust problem, created primarily by richer nations, including by agreeing to the establishment of a fund specifically for climate loss and damage in addition to providing funding needed for mitigation and adaptation. The U.S. must no longer block the creation of this vital fund.

“The president and his administration have pledged to center science and justice in their response to climate change. That commitment must extend to the global sphere, including here at COP27.”