Washington, Dec 2 (IANS) US Vice-President Kamala Harris will be the highest ranking executive of the US government attending the COP 28 summit in Dubai in the absence of President Joe Biden said to be busy with the war in Ukraine and Israel–Hamas conflict as well as hostage negotiations.
Harris is expected to reach Dubai later on Friday after a pushback over President Biden skipping the opening of the gathering this week amid heavy criticism from climate summit nations.</p
Harris' attendance at COP28 is in line with her recent steps to ramp up public messaging on climate. In recent months, the Vice-President has attended climate-related events, including talking to students and young voters on an issue central to them, media reports said.
My team and I are preparing for a productive COP28 where the U.S. will continue our global leadership on bold climate action.— Vice President Kamala Harris (@VP) December 1, 2023
Looking forward to arriving in Dubai. pic.twitter.com/d8g4QlD1xW
Kirsten Allen, Harris' Press Secretary, said in a statement that the Vice-President will attend the conference on Friday and Saturday.
"Throughout her engagements, the Vice-President will stress the Biden-Harris administration's success in delivering on the most ambitious climate agenda in history, both at home and abroad," Allen wrote.
The Vice-President's travel comes after climate activists and experts felt frustrated with Biden missing the gathering this year. Since assuming office, Biden has attended the annual UN climate summit in person in 2021 and 2022.
The Biden administration's handling of climate change reflects a larger pattern ahead of next year's general election. Recent polls show Biden receiving low approval ratings from voters and trailing former President Donald Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, in battleground states. At the same time, the administration has struggled to promote its signature achievements in a way that resonates with voters.
Climate change is often one of the issues cited by young progressive voters as a top priority. While Biden has made it a top priority since coming into office -- he signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law, which includes key provisions to reduce carbon emissions, and has recommitted the US to the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions -- there is still an undercurrent among young voters that the administration has still not done enough.
A Washington Post-University of Maryland poll from July found that 57 per cent of Americans disapprove of the way Biden has handled climate policy, including 59 per cent of voters between 18-29 years old. Seventy-four per cent of Democrats said they approved of how Biden had addressed the issue, but just 40 per cent of independents and eight per cent of Republicans agreed. Most Americans -- 71 per cent -- said they had read or heard very little about the Inflation Reduction Act, the major climate policy legislation Biden signed into law last year.
Although US presidents historically haven't attended every international climate summit, Biden skipping the conference is noticeable.
This year's conference is under heavy scrutiny. The COP28 president-designate Sultan Al Jaber on Wednesday strongly denied accusations that his team sought to use the international climate talks in Dubai to strike fossil fuel deals for the UAE's state-owned oil and gas company, of which he is the president. .
Several media outlets, including CNN, this week published stories based on a cache of leaked documents obtained by the UK-registered Centre for Climate Reporting, which appeared to be briefing notes for Al Jaber for meetings with foreign officials in the run-up to the summit. Al Jaber also runs the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.
"These allegations are false, not true, incorrect, and not accurate," he said at a news conference in Dubai on Wednesday.
"And it's an attempt to undermine the work of the COP28 presidency."