Biden urges world to 'step up' climate fight at COP27

President Joe Biden vowed at UN climate talks on Friday that the United States was on track to slash its carbon emissions, urging all nations to ramp up their own efforts to avert catastrophic global warming.

Biden touted the passage of a massive, $369 billion spending package to green the United States economy as an example for the entire world.

While the US spending on its own renewable energy push has been praised by activists, Washington has come under criticism for falling short on its pledges to financially help developing countries with their own transitions and to cope with intensifying climate-induced impacts.

"The climate crisis is about human security, economic security, environmental security, national security and the very life of the planet," Biden told an audience at the COP27 in the Egyptian seaside resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Biden said the United States is "on track" to achieve its pledge of cutting emissions 50-52 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

"To permanently bend the emissions curve, every nation needs to step up. At this gathering, we must renew and raise our climate ambitions," he said.

"The United States has acted, everyone has to act. It's a duty and responsibility of global leadership."

His speech, which lasted about 22 minutes, was briefly interrupted by unidentified people in the crowd making howling noises and attempting to unfurl a banner protesting fossil fuels.

New research shows just how dauntingly hard it will be to meet the Paris Agreement's most ambitious goal of capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels -- requiring emissions to be slashed nearly in half by 2030.

The new study -- published on Friday in the journal Earth System Science Data -- found that CO2 emissions from fossil fuels are on track to rise one percent in 2022 to reach an all-time high.

Biden's visit to the COP, lasting only a few hours, came three days after US midterm elections that have raised questions about what the result could mean for US climate policy.

Before his speech, Biden met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on the sidelines of COP27, where he raised human rights issues with his host amid concerns over the health of jailed dissident Alaa Abdel Fattah, who is on a hunger strike.

- War 'enhances urgency' -

The lightning visit to Egypt marks the start of a week-long trip abroad that will also take him to an ASEAN regional summit in Cambodia at the weekend, before he travels to Indonesia for G20 talks.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which has sent energy prices soaring, has raised concerns that solving the climate problem has dropped on the priority list of many countries.

"Russia's war only enhances the urgency of the need to transition the world off its dependence on fossil fuels," Biden said.

In his speech, however, Biden did not mention another issue that has been at the forefront of the COP27 meeting: calls for the United States and other rich polluters to compensate developing countries for the damage caused by natural disasters.

Calling out the United States as "the historic polluter", Mohamed Adow, founder of the think tank Power Shift Africa, said Washington has been an obstacle to the establishment of a "loss and damage" fund.

The issue was officially placed on the agenda of COP27, with fraught negotiations expected before the meeting ends on November 18.

- 'Super-Emitter' -

Germany's climate envoy, Jennifer Morgan, told reporters that Biden's attendance at COP27 was a "very good sign" that reassures other countries that "the United States at the highest level takes this issue incredibly seriously".

US climate envoy John Kerry presented this week a public-private partnership aimed at supporting the transition to renewable energy in developing nations and based on a carbon credit system.

But the plan has been panned by activists wary of firms using these to "offset" their carbon emissions.

The White House announced Friday plans to require federal contractors to set targets to reduce their emissions in line with the Paris Agreement.

It also aims to step up efforts to cut methane emissions -- a major contributor to global warming -- with a "Super-Emitter Response Programme" that would require companies to act on leaks reported by "credible" third parties.

Biden has also pledged to contribute $11.4 billion to a $100 billion per-year-scheme through which rich countries will help developing nations transition to renewable energies and build climate resilience.

But Democrats may be running out of time to honour that as control of the House of Representatives appears poised to shift to the Republicans from January in the wake of this week's mid-term elections.