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At U.N. summit, Biden calls on world leaders to raise their ambitions to avoid 'climate hell'

The president touted his administration’s climate legislation and projected confidence that he could get more done, even with Republicans gaining more seats in Congress.

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden sought to position the United States as a global leader on climate change in a speech Friday at a United Nations summit, even as he faces pressure to reduce emissions and provide support for developing countries most impacted by extreme weather events.

Speaking at the annual climate conference, known as COP 27, in Sharm el-Sheikh, a Red Sea resort town in Egypt, Biden said that the U.S. was acting on climate change with “urgency” and “determination” and called on countries around the world to “step up” to avoid a “climate hell.”

“The science is devastatingly clear — we have to make vital progress by the end of this decade,” he said. “We must renew and raise our climate ambitions. The United States is acting, everyone has to act.”

Although the U.S. is not currently on track to hit its 2030 goal of reducing emissions by 50% to 52% from 2005 levels, Biden said he was confident it would follow through on its commitment. He touted “unprecedented progress” that his administration has made in spurring investments in green energy through the infrastructure bill, as well as the sweeping climate change and health care bill known as the Inflation Reduction Act.

He also announced that the U.S. would commit $150 million to initiatives that support climate adaptation efforts in Africa, and said that the Environmental Protection Agency would propose an updated regulation to strengthen methane standards across business sectors.

The U.S. is the second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China. Biden is expected to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday at the Group of 20 summit in Bali, Indonesia.

Biden arrived in Egypt after his party performed surprisingly well in the midterm elections, but control of Congress was still up in the air Friday with Republicans favored to take control of the House. GOP control in either chamber could threaten his administration’s ambitions to pass additional legislation aimed at slowing the impact of climate change.

Asked by reporters how he planned to convince Republicans to fund his climate initiatives, Biden replied: “reality.”

He also said that Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, which has upended global energy markets and spurred conversations about energy independence, has underscored “the urgency of the need to transition the world off its dependence on fossil fuels.”

“Energy security means that every nation benefits from clean, diversified energy,” Biden said. “This gathering must be the moment to recommit to our future and our shared capacity to write a better story for the world.”

A U.N. report earlier this month said that countries around the world are failing to meet their commitments on climate change. Without a dramatic decrease in emissions, the report said, the planet is on track to warm by an average of 2.1 to 2.9 degrees Celsius by 2100 — blowing past the 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) cap set by the 2015 Paris Agreement.

“We can no longer plead innocence to the consequences of our actions,” Biden said.