President Joe Biden apologized to other world leaders on Monday for the Trump administration’s decision to exit the Paris climate agreement, the only global economic power to withdraw in such a fashion.
And, he said, the move by Trump has delayed U.S. efforts to thwart global warming.
“‘I guess I shouldn’t apologize, but I do apologize for the fact that the United States — the last administration pulled out of the Paris accord. It put us sort of behind the eight ball a little bit.'”
— President Biden
Biden made his remarks during a session on “action and solidarity” at the summit in Glasgow. It was part of the U.N.’s 26th Conference of Parties, or COP26, which some authorities have stressed will be an ambitious and crucial rallying point for the leading economies to set clearer efforts toward net-zero emissions and help pay for developing nations to get there, too. Critics have said the multinational effort is too cumbersome, and the absence of Russia and China on the ground in Glasgow is dispiriting.
It was in Paris six years ago that governments set the voluntary goal to keep the global temperature from rising no more than 2 degrees Celsius compared to before the Industrial Revolution, and ideally warm by no more than 1.5 degrees C.
Biden returned the U.S. to the Paris accord hours after he was sworn into office in January.
Also during Monday’s session, Biden told the COP26 panel that “the American people, four or five years ago, weren’t at all sure about climate change, whether it was real.”
“Well, they have, as they say in southern parts of my state, ‘seen the lord.’ They’ve seen what’s happened back home. The incredible changes that are taking place. And they’re now finally… seeing the sense of urgency that you all are,” he said.
Public concern over climate change has been growing in recent years, particularly among Democrats, Pew Research finds. A Pew Research Center analysis from last year found 60% view climate change as a major threat to the well-being of the United States, as high a share taking this view as in any Pew Research Center survey going back to 2009.
Trump, especially as a presidential candidate, at times referred to climate change as a hoax. At other times, he lamented too much “doom” talk.
Republican representatives are on hand in Glasgow as well, largely pushing for market-based solutions to cutting emissions, including carbon capture, and are adamant that U.S. energy independence should be upheld. They also want China and other polluters step up. Biden gave a plug for carbon-capture technology during his earlier remarks Monday.
Biden, in an official address to the conference, said climate action is an economic imperative and urged major nations to act quickly and decisively. Biden is waiting on congressional approval of his own pared-back package of legislative climate-change efforts, including tax incentives for renewable energy.