Joe Biden's meeting with Pope Francis overruns as global agenda shaped for G20 and COP26

Joe Biden’s private meeting with the pope lasted about 75 minutes. Credit: White House

P resident Joe Biden met with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Friday where they held a lengthy discussion ahead of the COP26 climate change conference on the weekend.

Mr Biden’s private meeting with the pope lasted about 75 minutes, according to the Vatican, an unusually long time for an audience with the pontiff.

The lengthy session, which was said to have covered topics ranging from the pandemic and poverty to climate change, put Mr Biden behind schedule for his meetings later Friday.

Joe Biden’s private meeting with the pope lasted about 75 minutes which is unusually long time, according to the Vatican. Credit: White House

The pair then had a broader meeting with the first lady and top officials joining in.

Mr Biden declared it’s “good to be back,” as he opened a five-day European trip, with the US president visiting Rome and then Glasgow for back-to-back summits, first for the G20 and then the COP26 climate conference.

Mr Biden and the Pope have previously met three times but this will be their first encounter since he became president.

Joe Biden declared it was “good to be back” as he opened a five-day European trip on Friday. Credit: AP

A devout Catholic himself, Biden wears a rosary and frequently attends Mass, yet his support of abortion rights and same-sex marriage has put him at odds with many US bishops, some of whom have suggested he should be denied Communion.

Pope Francis gave him a ceramic tile depicting the iconography of the pilgrim, as well as a collection of the pope’s main teaching documents, the Vatican said.

No live pictures or video of the meeting were provided due to last-minute Vatican restrictions on press access.

A White House official described laughter and a clear rapport between the two men when the larger delegation entered the room.

The COP26 climate conference - what you need to know

What is COP26? When and where will it be?

Each year, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meets at what is called the Conference of the Parties (abbreviated as COP) to discuss the world's progress on climate change and how to tackle it.

COP26 is the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties summit which will be held in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November.

Who is going?

Leaders of the 197 countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – a treaty that came into force in 1994 - are invited to the summit.

These are some of the world leaders that will be attending COP26:

  • US President Joe Biden, climate envoy John Kerry, climate adviser and former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, and 10 other US cabinet officials.

  • Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison. In the days leading up to COP26, Mr Morrison committed Australia to a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Prince Charles, Prince William, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Cambridge are also attending. The Queen has withdrawn from visiting after being advised by her doctors to rest - she will address the conference virtually instead.

China's President Xi Jinping, Russia's President Vladimir Putin, and President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil are among the leaders that have decided not to travel to Glasgow.

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What is it hoping to achieve?

1. Achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and limiting global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels - Countries are being encouraged to set ambitious 2030 emissions targets. They are also encouraged to accelerate the phase-out of coal, clamp down on deforestation, speed up the switch to electric vehicles and encourage investment in renewables.

2. Protect natural habitats and communities from climate change disasters

3. Finances for a greener future - In 2009, developed countries were asked to keep to their promises to contribute at least $100 billion (£72.5 billion) per year by 2020 to protect the planet. In 2015, it was agreed that the goal would be extended to 2025.

However, new analysis shows the goal is unlikely to have been met last year and is on track to fall short in 2021 and 2022.

4. Getting all countries and organisations to work together to tackle the climate crisis

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The COP26 summit, taking place in Glasgow from Sunday, has no global treaty to agree, unlike the last major UN climate conference in Paris in 2015.

It is being described as the summit that must deliver on the Paris Agreement and keeping the pathway to 1.5C within reach by increasing climate action in this decade.