Updated Nov 27, 2023 - Energy & Environment

Biden not scheduled to attend COP 28 climate summit

 President Joe Biden delivers remarks on his Administration's actions to address the climate crisis in the South Court Auditorium of the White House in Washington, DC, on November 14, 2023

President Biden delivers remarks at the White House earlier this month on his administration's actions to address the climate crisis. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden is not expected to attend the opening of COP 28 this week but will send top U.S. officials to the UN climate summit in Dubai, the White House confirmed.

Why it matters: Biden attended the previous two COP summits and has put tackling climate change at the center of his policymaking. Environmental policy forms a key part of his administration's national security strategy.

  • Senior White House aides suggested that Biden was busy dealing with matters like the Israel-Hamas war, per the New York Times, which first reported the news.

The big picture: Over 70,000 delegates are expected to attend COP 28, which begins on Thursday. These include Pope Francis, who on Sunday confirmed his attendance despite having a lung inflammation.

  • The White House released a schedule that shows Biden will attend the National Christmas Tree lighting and host a bilateral meeting with Angola's President João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço, which will include a discussion on climate and energy.
  • The only other event this week Biden is scheduled to attend is a Sunday reception for Kennedy Center honorees, including actor and comedian Billy Crystal; Bee Gees member Barry Gibb; singer Dionne Warwick; and rapper, singer, and actress Queen Latifah.

Of note: Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Dubai to attend the conference and "engage leaders on the need to continue global action to address the climate crisis" as part of a trip to the Middle East and Europe this week, per a statement from the State Department on Monday evening.

  • The COP 28 world leaders' summit will be held on Friday and Saturday.

What they're saying: "Since day one, President Biden has led and delivered on the most ambitious climate agenda in history, both at home and abroad," a White House spokesperson said in an emailed statement on Sunday night.

  • "He secured the largest climate investment ever, putting the U.S. on a path to cut climate pollution in half by 2030, protected more than 21 million acres of public lands and waters, and he continues to rally world leaders to raise their collective climate ambition," the spokesperson added.
  • "Although we don't have any travel updates to share for the President at this time, the Administration looks forward to a robust and productive COP28 where Special Envoy John Kerry, National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi, and Senior Advisor John Podesta, among others, will continue to build on the Administration's historic actions to tackle the climate crisis."

The intrigue: The White House has not categorically stated that Biden will not attend COP 28, so it's possible he could make an appearance later on.

Go deeper: Kerry, UN boss show more cards ahead of COP 28

Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect that Secretary of State Antony Blinken will attend COP 28.

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