President Joe Biden came under fire on Monday after closing his eyes and appearing to nap during the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. Biden, who was attending the crucial climate conference along with over 100 other world leaders, eventually offered his own statements on former President Donald Trump’s administration’s stance on climate change as well as Biden’s outlook for the future.
Besides his ambiguous blunder, where onlookers could not discern whether the president was simply resting his eyes or napping during fellow leader’s speeches, Biden offered sincere and poignant remarks at the conference, and, notably, apologized for former President Trump’s past actions:
“I guess I shouldn’t apologize — but I do apologize for the fact that the United States and the last administration pulled out of the Paris accords and put us sort of behind the eight ball a little bit,” said Biden in a breakout group with fellow officials at the conference.
Apologizing for U.S. policies, even if carried out by a past administration, is a rare move from a sitting president. Trump famously pulled America out of the Paris agreement and was largely absent from international climate conferences in the intervening years.
Biden’s main talking point over the course of the conference will be his plan to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. The President also announced that 70 other countries have followed the United States and the European Union’s lead in aiming to decrease methane emissions by 30% over the course of the decade.
“This is the decisive decade,” Biden said in remarks to fellow world leaders. “To state the obvious, we meet with the eyes of history upon us.”
Carbon emissions remains a central issue for world leaders engaging climate change
The United Nation’s weather agency, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said in its annual report last Monday that greenhouse gas levels in the planet’s atmosphere reached a record high in 2020.
The WMO’s report showed that carbon dioxide levels peaked at 413.2 parts per million in 2020, building at a much higher pace than the yearly average for the past decade, despite a small lull during the beginning of the pandemic’s lockdowns.
Concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide – the gases that contribute the most significantly to global warming while also causing catastrophic weather events – were all far above amounts found in the pre-industrial era before 1750, when humans “started disrupting Earth’s natural equilibrium,” according to the agency.
WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas cautioned that the pace at which heat-trapping gases are increasing would lead to elevations in temperature “far in excess” of 1.5C (2.7F) – which is the standard decided on in the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
“We are way off track,” Taalas said.
“We need to revisit our industrial, energy, and transport systems and whole way of life,” he added. The Secretary-General also demanded a “dramatic increase” in efforts at COP26.