COP27 protesters

Activists protest for loss and damage reparations outside the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt on November 11, 2022. (Photo: Dominika Zarzycka/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Biden COP27 Pledges Called a 'Band-Aid on Damage That Threatens Our Collective Future'

"If President Biden is serious about the U.S. doing its part to 'avert climate hell,' he would deliver a plan to end the era of fossil fuels," said one campaigner.

Campaigners pushed back Friday after U.S. President Joe Biden touted his administration's "bold agenda" to tackle the climate emergency during a speech at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Egypt.

"Disturbingly, Biden was silent on loss and damage, the most critical issue at COP27."

Addressing COP27 attendees at the Tonino Lamborghini International Convention Center Sharm el-Sheikh, Biden asserted that his administration is "meeting the climate crisis with urgency and determination" in service of "a cleaner, healthier, and safer planet for us all."

"We're racing forward to do our part to prevent climate hell," the president of the world's second-worst greenhouse gas emitter claimed. "We're not ignoring harbingers that are already here."

As Common Dreams reported earlier Friday, green groups welcomed Biden's announcement of stronger regulations, meant to curb methane pollution resulting from oil and gas production. However, activists stressed that the president must do substantially more to combat the planetary emergency.

"If President Biden is serious about the U.S. doing its part to 'avert climate hell,' he would deliver a plan to end the era of fossil fuels," Greenpeace USA chief program officer Tefere Gebre said in a statement. "The Biden administration has failed to deliver on their commitment to phase out oil and gas lease sales on public lands and water and instead continues to sacrifice the health and safety of frontline communities. The commitments made today are a Band-Aid on damage that threatens our collective future."

Earthjustice president Abigail Dillen said that "we applaud the Biden administration's commitment to clean energy investments and climate adaptation abroad, but we need promises put into action."

"The Biden administration must act to catalyze climate solutions and aggressively rein in fossil pollution," Dillen added. "The roadmap to emission reductions is clear: We must end fossil fuel extraction and exports; ensure frontline communities which already bear the brunt of toxic pollution and extreme weather are prioritized for investments; and strengthen and protect our bedrock environmental laws that will be crucial to building our clean energy future."

Rachel Cleetus, policy director and lead economist for the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, asserted that Biden's COP27 speech "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," Cleetus said, adding that "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."

Biden also drew criticism for claiming that "the United States government is putting our money where our mouth is" in the climate fight, with activists pointing to a massive shortfall in U.S. climate financing and its rejection of developing nations' demands for "loss and damage" climate reparations.

The president's COP27 speech follows his August signing of the Inflation Reduction Act, which contains hundreds of billions of dollars in climate investments.

Climate campaigners applauded the landmark--yet watered-down--package. However, activists have also condemned the administration's push for ramped-up fossil fuel production--including expanding oil and gas extraction under public lands and waters--amid high energy prices caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine and rampant corporate profiteering.

"Achieving any sort of climate justice requires the United States and the world's biggest polluters to kickstart the phaseout of fossil fuels and invest in the just transition of fossil fuel workers and communities," argued Gebre. "The climate crisis is a shared global reality and yet the U.S--one of the world's largest polluters, producers, and exporters of fossil fuels--has failed to complete existing funding investments for vulnerable countries."

Cleetus said that "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," she added. "The U.S. must no longer block the creation of this vital fund."

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