Joe Biden

Background Press Call by Senior Administration Officials to Preview COP28

November 29, 2023

Via Teleconference

4:33 P.M. EST

MODERATOR: Hi, everyone. Thanks for joining us today as we preview the upcoming COP, which will be held in Dubai, in the UAE, as you all are tracking.

This call will be embargoed until the conclusion. We'll start with opening remarks on the record, and then the Q&A portion will be on background, attributable to a "senior administration official."

For your awareness, speakers on today's call are [senior administration official], [senior administration official], [senior administration official], and [senior administration official].

That all being said, I will turn it over to John to get us started.

MR. PODESTA: Thanks, [moderator]. And thank you all for joining us. I'm actually on an airplane. I hope you can hear me.

COP28 is coming at the end of a year that has really been defined by the climate crisis. We had the hottest day on record on July 4th. We had the hottest months on record in July. 2023 is poised to be the hottest year on record.

In the United States, we had a record number of climate disasters, costing over a billion dollars this year -- from the devastating fires in Maui, to catastrophic flooding in Vermont and New York, to 31 straight days in Phoenix that were over 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

The urgency of this challenge is clear, but so is our ambition. Since day one, President Biden and Vice President Harris have treated climate change as the crisis it is.

They set an ambitious, science-based goal of cutting our carbon pollution by 50 to 52 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

They painted a vision of the United States powered by a hundred percent clean electricity by 2035 and a net-zero economy by 2050, and then backed it up by -- backed those targets up with real action through his Investing in America agenda.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law makes the biggest investment in our nation's infrastructure in history, including our electric grid and next-generation clean energy industries, like green hydrogen.

The CHIPS and Science Act invests in semiconductors, a crucial ingredient in zero-emissions technologies.

And, of course, the Inflation Reduction Act makes the largest investment in clean energy and climate action in history.

Together, these laws have unleashed a clean energy manufacturing and deployment boom in the United States.

Since the administration took office, the private sector has announced $213 billion for clean energy manufacturing and $132 billion in clean power deployment.

All of this activity creates good-paying jobs. It brings clean, affordable, reliable energy to communities across America. It means clean air and clean water for communities who've borne the brunt of pollution. It brings economic opportunities to communities that have often been left out and left behind, creating lasting change that's hard to uproot. It bolsters our energy security and independence, and it speeds up a cycle of innovation that expands beyond borders, lowering costs and accelerating the deployment of clean energy around the world.

The Boston Climate Group found that the Inflation Reduction Act is expected to drive down the cost of certain clean energy technologies by as much as 25 percent, helping speed deployment across the globe.

And the Rhodium Group found that for every ton of carbon pollution reduced at home because of the IRA, it will slash up to 2.9 tons of carbon pollutions outside the United States.

Simply put, the IRA is good for the world.

Thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act and the rest of President Biden's Investing in America agenda, we're going to Dubai with confidence that the United States is on a path to achieve our climate goals and do our part to build a clean, secure, and equitable future for the entire world.

With that, let me turn it over to [senior administration official].

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Great. Thanks so much, John. And thanks for doing this while in transit. And thanks to everyone for taking the time this afternoon.

We're really looking forward to a robust and productive COP in Dubai over the next two weeks. All COPs are important, but this one is important especially because it's the first COP to take stock of our collective progress towards achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement.

And as such, it represents a unique opportunity to rally the world to significantly step up our collective efforts to meet those goals in this critical decade.

As John just said, the President has led an ambitious climate agenda since day one of this administration, which will be seen and felt throughout the COP, much in thanks to the leadership of the Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry. And this includes the truly historic progress that John just spoke about, but you'll also hear more about from [senior administration official] and [senior administration official] in a minute.

However, we also know that to be successful in tackling the climate crisis, we're going to need all major economies to step up and take action aligned with a one-and-a-half-degree-C future.

This is why the President has made climate a keystone of his administration's foreign policy agenda, raising this issue in nearly every diplomatic engagement over the last almost three years and challenging fellow leaders to come to the table with the same level of ambition to tackle the climate crisis as the United States.

You've seen that very clearly in the President's major economy forum on energy and climate, where, in just three years since taking office, the President has convened fellow leaders of the world's major economies four times to increase global climate ambition -- more than any other world leader.

So, at COP, we will continue to focus on ensuring that the world's major emitters step up and commit to the actions that the science tells us is critical to keeping the one-and-a-half-degree-C future within reach.

Beyond the four corners of the negotiations, which I believe many of you were briefed on earlier by Secretary Kerry, the United States will be working to ratchet up climate ambition to the numerous efforts that we're taking with our partners on the sidelines of the conference.

You're going to be seeing a whole-of-government effort on full display over the next two weeks at COP.

We'll have more to share on specific initiatives throughout the duration of the COP, but some of those will include progress on key initiatives that the President and Vice President have launched and championed on the methane pledge -- Global Methane Pledge, which I know many of you are tracking, that President Biden and President von der Leyen announced at the MEF in September 2021 with just seven countries, now grown to over 150.

Our adaptation efforts through the President's Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience, or PREPARE, which the Vice President has been a key champion of in her trip to Africa earlier this year and a number of other things, like shipping through the Green Shipping Challenge and heavy industry through the First Movers Coalition, as well as the deforestation through the Forest Carbon Leadership Partnership. More to come on all of those things to follow.

Lastly, you'll hear about progress in our efforts to scale up climate finance. We'll have more to share at the COP, but you've already seen some of the impacts of our efforts, including with the recent news by the OECD that developed countries have very likely already achieved the $100 billion goal last year in 2022.

This is a significant milestone that the U.S. and partners have been working tirelessly towards for over a decade, when President Obama and other leaders made this pledge in 2008. So, we think it's a big deal and one that we hope to be able to repeat.

But as with mitigation, we're going to all need economies -- we're going to need all economies who are in a position to do so to step up and support developing countries.

So, thanks again for your time. I'm now going to hand it over to my colleague, [senior administration official].

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks, [senior administration official]. Hi, everyone. As [senior administration official] noted, my name is [senior administration official].

Earlier this afternoon, we announced that the Vice President will travel to Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, from December 1st to December 2nd to attend COP28. The Vice President's participation in COP28 builds on the administration's leadership on bold global action to address a climate crisis, advance U.S. climate goals, and help ensure a strong outcome at COP28.

Throughout her engagements in Dubai, Vice President Harris will highlight the administration's historic investments to address the climate crisis at home and abroad, and announce several initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, support adaptation, and boost climate resilience alongside global partners.

Throughout her travels across 20 countries and meetings with more than 100 world leaders, the Vice President has consistently voiced the need to take bold action to confront the climate crisis and protect the world's most vulnerable communities from worsening climate impacts. This includes engagements across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, and Africa.

The Vice President has also worked to uplift the administration's historic investments domestically through groundbreakings and site visits in communities across the country and in a recent college tour.

The Vice President's leadership on climate goes back to when she was the District Attorney of San Francisco, as she established one of the first environmental justice units in the nation.

Throughout her career, she has taken actions and led policies that center communities disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis, mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, reduce air pollution, and protect public health while helping communities become more resilient.

Altogether, her experiences alongside the President's long-term leadership and experience in tackling the climate crisis have led to their approach and shaped how we are utilizing our foundational climate priorities, reestablishing the U.S. as a global leader on climate.

And now, with that, I'll hand it over to [senior administration official].

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks so much. The President has made, really, the centerpiece of his economic agenda this push to build from the bottom up and the middle out in a way that is sustainable, more resilient in the face of the climate crisis, and better positioned to seize the incredible economic opportunity that comes with tackling the climate crisis.

And it's no surprise if you know Joe Biden. He, in 1986, introduced one of the first pieces of climate legislation in the United States Congress. The next year, he passed that first climate bill. And in 2022, he stood in the South Lawn of the White House and celebrated the passage of the largest investment in climate and clean energy not just in the history of the United States but in the history of the world.

And one of the lines that really stuck with me from that afternoon was that in the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, which came on the heels of passing the biggest, boldest, and most climate-forward infrastructure bill this country had ever seen, the American people won and special interests lost.

You know, for so many decades, we've known climate change is an issue, but special interests have thrown up denial and delay. They've prevented us from meeting the moment.

The President, through his leadership, has been able to allow the incredible suite of technologies and solutions, the incredible power of American workers -- their ingenuity, their innovation -- to finally be the force that helps not just drive the scale up of climate solutions here in the United States but all around the world.

If you think about the cumulative effect of the Inflation Reduction Act, the Infrastructure Law and what it's doing for climate ambition around the world, we know that the IRA alone will help reduce the cost of certain emerging technologies by 25 percent.

One set of analysts have said that for every ton of greenhouse gas we'll reduce here in the United States in this decade, we'll see an additional ton, two, or, three be reduced around the world because of the effect that the IRA will have to propel us down technology cost curves.

So, this bold leadership at home is having massive impact overseas. It's made the U.S. more persuasive in its diplomacy.

And, you know, it's not just the case for the President's investment agenda. If you look at the hundreds of executive actions the President has marshaled, including the use of emergency tools -- like the Defense Production Act, which he recently used to massively expand our ability to manufacture heat pumps -- delivering here allows us to drive progress around the world.

The methane emissions, the goals that we've set for the United States -- the multiagency multimedia approach that we've taken to reducing methane emissions here in the United States has brought tens and now over a hundred countries to the table in driving down methane emissions in their own jurisdictions.

So, in President Biden, in Vice President Harris, we have two individuals who, over the course of their careers, have woven into the DNA of their public service the ambition to tackle the climate crisis and do it in a very unique way -- in a way that delivers environmental justice, in a way that boosts economic competitiveness and productivity, in a way that translates domestic ambition and delivery into wind in the sails of global delivery and implementation.

That's what we take to the COP. We're very excited to be showing up and working with our partners and allies around the world and across sectors to make the progress that is necessary to meet this moment.

MODERATOR: Thank you, everyone, for those words.

We'll now go into the Q&A portion of the call. And, again, that is on background, attributable to a "senior administration official."

Moderator [Operator], would you mind reminding folks how to raise their hand please?

Q: Hi, this is Ella Nilsen with CNN. I had two quick questions.

First, I was just curious what the Vice President's schedule is going to be looking like and when we can expect her to speak at the leaders' summit at COP.

Secondly, I was just wondering if folks on the call could say anything about a potential U.S. contribution to the Loss and Damage Fund, which is one of the main things being discussed at COP. Any idea what that might look like or if the U.S. is willing to commit to making a contribution to the Loss and Damage Fund as soon as this year? Thanks.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Hi, this is [senior administration official]. I can take the first question.

So, we'll have more to share on the VP's broad schedule, but she'll be speaking at multiple engagements on December 2nd. And then, beyond that, we also do anticipate that, while in Dubai, the Vice President will have an opportunity to engage with global leaders assembled at COP28, including having discussions on the conflict between Israel and Hamas, and we'll have more details on that also in the coming days.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah, I -- this is [senior administration official]. I'm happy to take the second question.

I mean, listen, I think the loss and damage issue is extremely important, one that we've been dedicated to in the -- in the small group discussions over the last several -- several weeks and months and are looking forward to making sure we make progress on that issue. We're not going to get ahead of an announcement on a contribution, so I've got nothing to preview for you at this time, but more to follow soon.

Q: Hi, this is Chris Megerian at the AP. I was interested in kind of the change of schedule here. The Vice President, as recently as last week, was not expected to attend the conference. Why was it deemed that she should attend the conference? Was it related to criticism that Biden has faced for not going? Is it related to the opportunity to meet with people to talk about the war between Israel and Hamas? How would you characterize that?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: (Inaudible) I would just refer you to the statement the President put out earlier today noting that he requested the Vice President attend COP28.

Q: Hi, this is Sara Schonhardt from E&E News. I just wanted to come back to the -- the first question asked by CNN. Can you confirm whether or not the Vice President will be delivering remarks during the leaders' speeches and if there are any announcements that we can anticipate?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We are still finalizing schedules but intend to have her speak and cannot preview any additional announcements at this time.

Q: Hi there. Sorry. Thank you for making this call. My question is on -- the United States is -- while it's participating in COP, it's holding a series of oil and gas lease sales -- both onshore and, later this month, offshore. I wonder if you could comment on the timing of those auctions coinciding with COP and the need, according to the U.N., to drastically reduce our usage of fossil fuels to combat climate change.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The leasing that you referenced is leasing that is required as a matter of law under the terms and conditions of the Inflation Reduction Act. That is the law of the land. This is a rule-of-law administration. We follow what's the law on the books.

The timing, as you note, coinciding is the product not only of the law that was passed by the United States Congress but also a product of litigation that has followed in the courts. So, that's basically the story there.

You know, and hopefully it is clear, this administration has driven an unprecedented expansion of clean energy production over the course of the last two and a half years: ten million homes' worth of clean electricity now on the grid that was not there before Joe Biden and Kamala Harris took office, millions of electric vehicles, over a hundred factories producing these clean energy technologies now announced thousands of Americans going to work.

And much of that investment going to places that have historically been left out and left behind. Just today, the Treasury Department releasing data showing 80 percent of the deployment taking place in economically disadvantaged or energy transition communities.

So, that is -- that has been the focus of this administration: accelerating the clean energy economy and the good-paying jobs that come with it.

Q: Hi. Zack Colman with Politico. President Biden has promised $11.4 billion of international climate finance by FY24. House Republicans not likely to approve that. The international community is quite aware of U.S. politics and budgeting. What's your message going to be to them about the prospects of delivering on that promise?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah, I'm happy to start on this one.

So, thanks. I think we'll be able to say more about this over the course of COP, but we've taken very seriously the President's pledge both on the $11 billion and also on the $3 billion for PREPARE and our work on adaptation, working tirelessly through programs that we work on throughout the government agencies to ensure that we're able not just to be able to be on track to meet those goals but also to be making contributions to adaptation and mitigation efforts that are really valuable to progressing the cause and the intention for that financing.

We also, as we've previewed in previous fora, are working really hard to ensure that through all of our domestic and multilateral investments are doing as much as we can to really leverage the private sector and crowd in private capital, as well as public capital, into just reaching the volumes of climate finance that we know is going to be necessary to meet our targets going forward.

So, we feel good about the direction and our ability to make good on and work towards those goals. But then also, really, we've spent a lot of time this year in the context of World Bank evolution and other climate finance dialogues, which I think it'll be a huge focus of COP this year, making sure that we're able to scale even sort of beyond what the public sector pledges are to make sure that we're leveraging private capital at scale and putting it to good use.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And just a broader point about congressional dynamics. The President was just in Colorado in a congressional district that has seen hundreds of jobs show up because of the President's climate agenda and the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act.

That district is represented by someone in Congress who not only didn't vote for that legislation but is actively trying to repeal that legislation.

In the face of the National Climate Assessment, which showed the extreme nature of this risk and the ubiquity with which it's showing up in communities all across America, we still have folks in leadership positions in the House Republican Party that are not only trying to slow down the pace of climate action but deny it and reverse course.

So, this is an active place of dialogue and discourse in the United States. And the President remains absolutely committed to listening to the science, to following the science, to pursuing the best economic interests of the United States, which in this moment absolutely align with accelerating our path and trajectory to a clean energy economy.

MODERATOR: Awesome. Thank you so much to all of our speakers. This is all the time we have for today. A reminder that our opening remarks were on the record and then Q&A was on background, attributable to "senior administration officials."

If we didn't get to you or if you have any follow-up questions, feel free to reach out to any of our speakers' comms folks, and we'll get back to you as soon as we can. Thanks.

5:00 P.M. EST

Joseph R. Biden, Background Press Call by Senior Administration Officials to Preview COP28 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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