Joe Biden

Remarks at a Roundtable Discussion on Global Action and Solidarity at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, United Kingdom

November 01, 2021

Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom. Let's go now to Joe Biden, President of the United States of America.

President Biden. Well, thank you very much. Let me get this off.

[At this point, President Biden removed his face mask.]

President Biden. Didn't expect to be called at this moment. [Laughter]

Prime Minister Johnson. I'm sorry.

President Biden. That's okay. No, I'm happy to.

To my fellow leaders, we're all here gathered in Glasgow because, I think, this is a critical decade. It's not just where we are in 2050, but this decade is going to determine whether we meet our goals, in my view.

And when future historians look back on the 2020s, in my view, I think they'll find that we let this final chance to stem the crisis slip through our fingers because we did too little or failed to act. Or are they going to say that in the 2020s, we stepped up and we saw—that we took the kind of actions that—to unite the world and do what's necessary—the larger countries—to meet our broader obligations beyond our own countries?

Action and solidarity, that's what's required. We all know it. And I'll—I apologize if I'm repeating some of what you've already said. The United States, if I have anything to do with it, will do our part. As I said earlier today, we've set ambitious goals of reducing U.S. greenhouse gases emissions by 50 to 52 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. That's a goal in line with limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. But the math only works if every country does its part and those countries that don't have the wherewithal get the kind of help they need.

Every major economy needs to enhance its Paris targets, in my view, to a level that will keep our goal within reach. And then—and then—continue to raise our standards. Developing economies need to take meaningful mitigation adaptation actions as well, but they're going to need help. Our success, in my view, hinges on our collective commitment to ramping up our momentum and strengthening our climate ambition. I—advancing concrete actions during this decade to keep the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal within our reach and be realistic.

Developed and developing economies, so many of which are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, have to stand together and hold each other accountable. The United States recognizes that we will meet our duty to support developing countries taking these actions because they're going to need our help.

At the U.S.—at the U.N. General Assembly, I announced our intention to work with our Congress to quadruple our climate financing by 2024, including support for adaptation. As I said earlier, we'll also make our first-ever contributions to the Adaptation Fund.

And I guess I shouldn't apologize, but I do apologize for the fact the United States, in the last administration, pulled out of the Paris accords and put us sort of behind the eight ball a little bit. That was the first thing I did when elected. And I see my friend nodding his head over there, because we talked about this before, while I was running.

But today I'm announcing also the Presidential Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience. And although I try to—very hard to resist acronyms, they came up with that because—so they could say, "PREPARE." [Laughter] That's what we're calling it. But PREPARE will serve as a comprehensive framework to mobilize U.S. Government resources and expertise in support of climate adaptation efforts for more than a half a billion people worldwide.

We're going to invest in creating an early warning system and expanding clean energy; and build a WaterSMART infrastructure for drought, supporting sustainable forestry and agriculture; and helping nature to work to reduce the climate change drivers and impacts; and protecting critical infrastructure, enhancing resilience of vulnerable nations in the face of a wide range of climate impacts.

If we had more time, I'd go into detail of what are the things we think we can do to do those things. But you know, we're also launching a net-zero world initiative to help share the technical expertise of the United States world-class national laboratories—and the speed and support to transition of—for developing countries to energy systems that are affordable and reliable and clean.

And here's what we should all remember, in my view—presumptuous of me to say this, what we should all remember—but I think we should: We have to make sure that our people understand, making these investments in our clean energy future isn't just the need to fight climate change. As I said a moment ago—and I apologize for repeating myself—when I spoke to the whole assembly is that it's an enormous opportunity—an enormous opportunity to create good-paying jobs for our own workers today and to spur long-term economic growth that's going to improve the quality of life for all people. I think that really is within our power to do it if we make the commitment.

These are investments that we can't afford to not make. And we all have to step up, as—to use the vernacular, English vernacular—step up to the plate and do our piece. I—we really mean it. And you know, these investments, as I said, are ones that I think we can meet.

Our meeting here in Glasgow isn't the end of the journey, as we all know. And I know we all know this, and you know it as well or better than I do, many of you. It's really just a starting line to begin to really take, for the first time, really decisive action and one that's going to determine whether or not we're going to be able to meet the challenge of climate change and deliver on the promise of a safer, more prosperous future for all our people.

I think we can do this. My mother, God love her, used to have an expression. She'd say, "Out of everything bad, something good will come if you look hard enough for it." Well, I know, in the United States, just because of the leadership of people behind me—like former Secretary Kerry and Senator Kerry, and a lot of you as well—that the American people 4 or 5 years ago weren't at all sure about climate change, whether it was real.

Well, they have, as they say in southern parts of my State, seen the Lord. They've seen what's happened back home, the incredible changes that are taking place. And they're now finally—finally, finally—realizing the sense of urgency that you all are.

And so, look, as I said, we have the tools, and I think we have the know-how, and we have the resources. But we have to make some just—we have to make some choices. And I apologize that I have to—going to have to step away. One of the choices I'm going to make is, I'm going to better the person sitting in this seat in a moment and ask Secretary Kerry, the Special Presidential Envoy on Climate Change and a longtime friend and a genuine expert on this issue. We—he's done an incredible job this year.

But let me conclude by saying—and I know I've gone over my time—is that I really, honest to God, think we have an opportunity if we seize it, an opportunity that I think the world is ready to embrace.

But I want to emphasize again: I think those of us who have deforested a long time ago, those of us who have taken actions a long time ago that caused the problems we have, we have to be ready to step up for everyone from Tanzania to Fiji to make sure that they have the wherewithal.

And we had—that's the next—I have to acknowledge to you: That's the next big case that I'm going to have to make at home. They now know there is a climate change, and they're ready to step up. But we've got to make sure they know that the United States has an obligation to also step up at financing, financing other countries that are—have not had the opportunity to do as much damage as we have and have an opportunity to get much better.

So, anyway, thank you very much. And thank you for having me, old buddy. Appreciate it.

Prime Minister Johnson. Thank you very much. Thank you, Joe.

NOTE: The President spoke at approximately 3:45 p.m. at the Scottish Event Campus, during an event titled "Action and Solidarity: The Critical Decade."

Joseph R. Biden, Remarks at a Roundtable Discussion on Global Action and Solidarity at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, United Kingdom Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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