COP26: Biden promises to be 'bold' on climate change but can he deliver?

US president Joe Biden has outlined a bold vision for climate action - but time is against him, writes ITV News US Correspondent Emma Murphy. Credit: PA

'Bold' is President Biden’s word for day one of COP26.

The talk from the White House delegation is all about the president’s personal commitment to tackling climate change.

The official briefing on what he will bring to COP was an affirmation of action.

“President Biden will outline the bold steps his administration is taking in his whole-of-government approach to combat climate change,” his aides say.

A protester dressed as US president Joe Biden told ITV News today that world leaders need to take climate action now. Credit: PA

The US president will “underscore how bold action delivers economic prosperity and peace and security, and rally countries from every corner of the world to step up their ambition and confront this existential threat during a decisive decade.”

That’s because he now sees climate not as threat to future generations but to the health and wealth of those already here.

The COP27 climate conference - what you need to know

What is COP27? 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.

COP27 is the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties summit which will be held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt from November 6-18.

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 COP27:

  • UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is attending the conference, after initially saying he wouldn't as he was too busy focusing on the economy within his first weeks in office.

  • US President Joe Biden and his experienced climate envoy, John Kerry, will appear at the talks.

  • France President Emmanuel Macron will also be among the heads of state from around the world staying in Egypt.

King Charles III will not be attending COP27, despite being a staunch advocate for the environment. The decision was made jointly by Buckingham Palace and former prime minister Liz Truss.

Elsewhere, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping will not attend the talks just as they decided to do for COP26.

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What is it hoping to achieve?

1. Ensure full implementation of the Paris Agreement and putting negotiations into concrete actions - included within this is the target of limiting global warming to well below 2C.

2. Cementing progress on the critical workstreams of mitigation, adaptation, finance and loss and damage, while stepping up finance notably to tackle the impacts of climate change.

3. Enhancing the delivery of the principles of transparency and accountability throughout the UN Climate Change process.

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That is all very well and good but will he really be able to deliver? Is all this flying round the world of any use when those inside and outside his party back home are unable to find any consensus to pass the legislation all his hopes hinge on.

Promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, decarbonise the American economy, hit net-zero targets all rely on getting votes for his massive infrastructure and social spending plan.

The big hope was he’d come to COP26 with that deal done. Instead he can only insist it’s just a matter of time, time that really is against him.

President Biden (left) met with Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right) in Rome on Saturday at the G20 summit. Credit: PA

In a gas guzzling, fossil fuel-friendly country there is big business at stake and powerful factions determined to protect oil and coal.

In the absence of bills getting through Congress the president is trying to legislate through executive orders but they can be reversed with a change of administration and the strike of the presidential pen.

Unfortunately while the debates go on so too do the environmental changes, many of which will be irreversible whoever wields presidential power.