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Joe Biden expected to skip COP28 climate summit in UAE

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US President Joe Biden is not planning to attend the COP28 climate summit in the United Arab Emirates set to begin this week, US officials said on Sunday.

Biden’s likely absence from the conference had been expected as he grapples with war in the Middle East and prepares for a tough re-election campaign in 2024.

But the apparent decision to skip the COP28 gathering of world leaders is still striking given that Biden has placed the fight against climate change high on his domestic and international agendas and attended the last two climate summits in the UK and Egypt.

The White House said on Sunday night that it did not have “anything to announce” regarding Biden’s planned participation or absence from the COP28 summit.

The New York Times first reported that Biden had chosen not to attend this year.

Biden is travelling to Atlanta, Georgia, this week for a memorial service for Rosalynn Carter, the former first lady who died this month, and to Pueblo, Colorado, to speak about renewable energy investments.

He is also due to host the president of Angola at the White House on Thursday and attend an event at the Kennedy Center concert venue on Sunday. There is no foreign travel on Biden’s calendar for the rest of the year.

Regardless of the president’s plans, his top climate advisers, including former secretary of state John Kerry and former White House chief of staff John Podesta, are expected to attend COP28.

The summit is likely to host a fierce debate over emerging economies’ continued reliance on polluting fossil fuels, including coal, oil and gas.

Almost 200 countries committed at COP26 in 2021 in Glasgow to “phase down” — rather than “phase out” — coal power, but use of the fossil fuel has barely declined, especially as energy demand expands in countries including China, India and Indonesia.

Biden’s willingness to miss the COP28 summit could hit his standing with young Democratic voters who see climate as a top issue.

Recent polls have shown Biden falling behind his predecessor Donald Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, in several important swing states and among younger and non-white voters over the president’s handling of the economy and the war between Israel and Hamas.

But Trump is expected to roll back many climate regulations and policies — including Biden’s signature Inflation Reduction Act, which established $369bn in clean energy subsidies and tax breaks — if he is elected.

Trump would seek to overhaul US climate and energy policy to “maximise fossil fuel production” during a second term, senior campaign officials and advisers have told the Financial Times.

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