White House defends "robust" COP28 team despite Biden snub

Washington DC - The White House said on Monday a "robust" US delegation would attend a key UN climate summit in Dubai despite the fact that President Joe Biden is planning to miss it.

President Joe Biden does not plan to attend the COP28 climate summit in Dubai, UAE.
President Joe Biden does not plan to attend the COP28 climate summit in Dubai, UAE.  © SAUL LOEB / AFP

John Kerry, the US climate envoy and a former secretary of state and senator, will be leading the US team at the COP28 meeting along with two other senior officials, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

"We're going to have a robust representation obviously, and we expect it'll be productive," Jean-Pierre told a briefing.

Biden "has delivered the most ambitious climate agenda in history," she added.

Both Jean-Pierre and White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said they had no updates on Biden's travel plans when asked about reports he was not going to attend.

A US official said on condition of anonymity Sunday that Biden would miss the Dubai summit, after two years of attending the talks in hopes of highlighting US leadership.

Biden was not planning to attend COP28 this week during a gap in his schedule on Friday and Saturday, or during a second window close to the end of the talks on December 12, the official said.

Biden claims to place high priority on domestic climate action

A person walks past a "#COP28" sign in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
A person walks past a "#COP28" sign in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  © REUTERS

US officials have pointed to the fact that Biden is closely involved in efforts to maintain and extend a truce between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

Some 70,000 people including national leaders and Pope Francis are expected at COP28 as it opens Thursday, in what could be the largest United Nations climate summit ever.

Until Biden, it was not customary for the US president to attend each COP summit.

Biden in 2021 traveled to Glasgow to vow that the United States would again take a global leadership role on climate after his climate skeptic predecessor Donald Trump pulled out of the Paris climate accord.

Biden again made a brief trip last year to COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

Biden claims to place high priority on climate domestically, with the so-called Inflation Reduction Act, his signature legislative achievement, channeling billions of dollars to the green economy including through incentives for electric cars.

But the president has also made a series of decisions which will significantly ramp up emissions, including green lighting major fossil fuel projects in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico.

Cover photo: SAUL LOEB / AFP

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