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Environmental Groups Slam Biden for Skipping Climate Ambition Summit

“Showing up would mean exposing his inadequate climate policies and relentless support for fossil fuels,” said a critic.

Demonstrators gather in the Financial District of Manhattan to demand an end to fossil fuel funding by Wall Street and the American government on September 18, 2023, in New York City.

U.S. President Joe Biden is drawing anger from environmental groups for opting not to attend this week’s Climate Ambition Summit convened by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, a gathering billed as an effort to rally countries around plans to urgently phase out planet-warming fossil fuels as the window for action closes.

Biden’s climate envoy, John Kerry, is set to attend the Wednesday summit as the U.S. representative, and he is not expected to speak.

“President Biden’s decision not to attend is a betrayal to those who have rallied for him and a missed opportunity for him to deliver on his climate commitments,” Jeff Ordower, the North American director of 350.org, said in a statement Tuesday.

“It is a disgrace that President Biden is skipping the Climate Ambition Summit,” Ordower continued. “The president is dodging accountability to U.N. Secretary-General Guterres by refusing to halt new fossil fuel projects and rejecting Guterres’ invitation to be a climate leader and back up his words with substantive action. Biden’s inaction reveals how he shamelessly continues to sacrifice some of the most impacted Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities in service to an energy strategy that continues to privilege oil barons over those on the frontlines.”

The event will take place on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York City just days after more than 75,000 people took to the streets there to demand aggressive climate action from the U.S., the largest historical emitter of greenhouse gases and the world’s biggest contributor to planned fossil fuel expansion.

According to a report released last week by Oil Change International(OCI), planned oil and gas extraction in the U.S. accounts for more than a third of prospective fossil fuel expansion worldwide through 2050. OCI dubbed the U.S. “planet-wrecker-in-chief.”

Allie Rosenbluth, U.S. program manager at OCI, said it’s “no wonder” that Biden has opted to no-show the Climate Ambition Summit, “since showing up would mean exposing his inadequate climate policies and relentless support for fossil fuels on the global stage.”

“Biden should be worried about this climate hypocrisy,” said Rosenbluth.

In the lead-up to Wednesday’s summit, Guterres has expressed hope that the event will help spur a “quantum leap” in the emissions reduction pledges of rich nations, which are disproportionately responsible for greenhouse gas pollution that is fueling increasingly extreme and deadly weather disasters across the planet.

But while Guterres has reportedly received requests from more than 100 countries to speak at the summit, the leaders of some of the world’s major polluters — including the U.S., China, and the United Kingdom — aren’t expected to attend.

“That is a worrying political signal about the seriousness with which countries are taking the goals of the summit,” Rachel Cleetus, policy director of the Union of Concerned Scientists, wrote Monday. “Shame on world leaders if a year like this one — filled with tremendous suffering and exorbitant costs from human-caused climate change, and on track to be one of the hottest on record — is not enough to make them rise to the occasion.”

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