President Joe Biden offered a public apology to a UN climate conference over his predecessor Donald Trump’s move to pull the US from the Paris accord.
Biden was speaking in Glasgow, Scotland, on Monday where world leaders were gathering to discuss implementing the agreement to contain global warming by mid-century.
He said: “I shouldn’t apologise, but I do apologise for the fact the United States, the last administration, pulled out of the Paris Accords and put us sort of behind the eight ball a little bit.”
Biden has frequently criticised the past administration’s approach to climate, but had not previously delivered a public apology to the world.
Biden re-entered the agreement in one of his first official acts in office on January 20.
He urged world leaders to the meet the challenge of global warming, saying there is “no more time to hang back” or “argue amongst ourselves” about the peril facing the planet.
“Glasgow must be the kickoff of a decade of ambition,” Biden told world leaders at Monday’s COP26 summit.
Biden said, within the “growing catastrophe” of a warming climate, there was an “incredible opportunity” to stave off problems caused by extreme weather, diminishing resources and other disastrous impacts caused by climate change. He said the crisis also offered an opportunity to “make a generational investment” to grow economies around the globe.
The president also said he wants to do more to help countries around the world to address the challenges caused by climate change.
The Biden administration on Monday released its strategy for transforming the US into an entirely clean energy nation by 2050. The long-term plan, filed in compliance with the Paris accord, lays out a United States increasingly running on wind, solar and other clean energy.
British naturalist David Attenborough gave leaders at the summit a brief lesson in the fragility of the planet and humanity’s dependence on the natural world.
The 95-year-old documentary-maker, who was announced at Monday’s ceremonial opening as the “people’s advocate”, spoke ahead of presidents and prime ministers from more than 100 countries.
Attenborough said for much of humanity’s existence, the climate on Earth had swung wildly before stabilising 10,000 years ago, allowing human civilisations to flourish.
“The stability we all depend on is breaking,” he said.
Attenborough said the action necessary to curb greenhouse gas emissions to levels that would prevent dangerous global warming is possible, if countries move quickly and decisively.
“We are, after all, the greatest problem-solvers to have ever existed on Earth,” he said. “If working apart, we are a force powerful enough to destabilise our planet. Surely working together, we are powerful enough to save it.”
Meanwhile, activists in costumes have posed as world leaders playing in a traditional Scottish bagpipe band.
The Oxfam campaigners wore kilts and said that world leaders need to come up with more action and not only “hot air” to tackle the climate crisis.
“These leaders, instead of reducing emissions and putting the world on a safer path, they are just blowing hot air, and we have had enough of hot air and empty promises, what we are asking for is for concrete action,” Oxfam climate policy lead Nafkote Dabi said.
“We need climate finance, poor countries need climate finance, vulnerable communities need climate finance, and they need to be serious about this, to support vulnerable countries, to adapt to the worst impact of the climate crisis.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson opened the climate summit by saying the world is strapped to a “doomsday device”.
Johnson likened the Earth’s position to that of fictional secret agent James Bond strapped to a doomsday device that will destroy the planet and trying to work out how to defuse it.
He told leaders “we are in roughly the same position” and that only now the “ticking doomsday device” is real and not a movie.
The UN climate conference is aimed at getting an agreement to curb carbon emissions fast enough to keep global warming to 1.5C below pre-industrial levels.
Britain’s leader struck a gloomy note on the eve of the conference after Group of 20 leaders made only modest climate commitments at their summit in Rome.
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