Nov 2, 2021
Joe Biden COP26 Climate Summit Glasgow Press Conference Transcript
President Joe Biden held a press conference at the COP26 UN climate change summit in Glasgow on November 2, 2021. Read the transcript of the briefing here.
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Joe Biden: (00:01)
We’re preparing to wrap up another busy day in Scotland. I think we got a lot done. We had a lot of good substantive meetings with my fellow leaders, and most of all, it was critically important to the United States to be here at COP26. Back in the Paris Agreement, raising domestic climate ambitions, and demonstrating a commitment to support the rest of the world, particularly those countries that are on the front lines of the climate crisis. Today, I spoke with leaders of forested nations, island nations, developing countries, and my message to them was United States is going to be their partner as we meet this climate crisis. And I want to thank the United Kingdom and Prime Minister Johnson for hosting us, hosting the world, at a critical moment, as well as I met with Prince Charles, who’s put together a very significant operation over the last six, seven years trying to bring in the private sector to work on a number of these issues.
Joe Biden: (01:03)
Glasgow must be the start of, you’re tired of hearing me say it, but a decisive decade of action so we can keep the limit of 1.5 degrees within the reach of us and the rest of the world. We have to keep accelerating our progress. Today’s agreement by than 100 countries representing 85% of the world’s forests to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030. There’s a great example of the kind of ambition we need and the United States is proud to have initiated and supported it. For our part, the United States is going to keep raising the ambition and delivering the goal that we are reducing U.S. emissions by 50% to 52%, as Secretary Kerry’s talked about, from the 2005 levels by 2030. This decade we have to make significant progress. And by the way, I might note parenthetically, I can’t think of any two days where more has been accomplished dealing with climate than these two days.
Joe Biden: (02:06)
Overall, the past two days, I’ve announced a series of initiatives that are going to make sure we hit the target of including today two new rules to reduce methane losses from new and existing oil and gas operations and from natural gas pipelines. Thanks to our joint effort with the EU, we’ve grown the Global Methane Pledge. Remember I raised it when I spoke to the United Nations from nine countries signing onto that pledge in September at the United Nations. More than 100 countries have signed on. It’s about half the world’s methane emissions and 70% of the worlds global GDP. We made commitments to promote climate smart agriculture, spur innovation, catalyze private finance for a clean economy and to drive high standard clean climate resilient infrastructure through the Build Back Better initiative. We had a great meeting today where we sat and talked about the whole focus of my Build Back Better initiative, which was adopted by the G7, was that everything should be focused on as we help with the infrastructure of the rest of the world, which needs it badly, focused on climate, climate.
Joe Biden: (03:20)
The example is that, you build a gas or oil refinery, you’re going to have that for next 30 years. Well, why not invest now if we’re going to provide for the help for nations in solar capacity or wind capacity? The point is, we also brought through the new President’s Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience. We called it, I’m getting tired of acronyms I have to admit to you, but it’s called a PREPARE. We’re going to support climate adaptation efforts and more than a half a billion people worldwide. We also released our overall longterm strategy that outlines how we’ll get to net zero emissions by 2050. We know that this must be a whole society effort. I also want to thank the representatives from the private sector and from labor and philanthropies, civil societies who are dedicating themselves to the climate action efforts we’re all making here.
Joe Biden: (04:22)
That leadership together with action by state and local and tribal governments has been essential in the United States. That’s why despite the previous administrations pulling us out of the Paris Agreement and refusing even to acknowledge there was a climate crisis, we still brought down emissions during that period. I also want to acknowledge the passion and power of the young people and the activists who are doing such vital work to remind us of our moral obligation to future generations. But look, as I said yesterday, it’s not just a moral imperative. It’s an economic imperative as well. Investing in our clean energy future is an enormous opportunity for every country to create good paying jobs and spur a broad based economic recovery. As I’ve said, you heard me say it before and my colleague as well, when I think of climate crisis, I think of jobs and that’s what the Build Back Better framework will do for the American people.
Joe Biden: (05:20)
It’s going to bring historic investment in clean energy addressing the climate crisis. It’s going to cut greenhouse gas emissions by well over a gigaton by 2030. It’s going to save consumers money on their energy bills and tax credits for things like installing solar panels and weatherization of their homes. It’s also going to provide manufacturing credits to make sure the United States is competing in energy markets for future like solar panels and wind turbines. It’s also going to accelerate electric vehicles and electric school buses and build a nationwide network of 500,000 charging stations of power. It’s about jobs. It’s about competitiveness versus complacent. It’s about making the world safer, cleaner, healthier, a place for our children and children all around the world to look to the future in a way that they can’t now. And so there’s so many other things that have happened today that I feel good about, but let me start, if you will, I’ll be happy to take your questions. Phil, you got a question? I watch you on TV a lot.
Thank you very much, Mr. President. You noted your disappointment with Chinese actions on climate in Rome, and also a lack of willingness from Chinese President Xi Jinping to show up at either the G20 or COP26. But I wanted to ask more broadly, when you assess where things stand right now in U.S.-China relationships after your first 10 months in office, your diplomats have had difficulty engaging in a substantive manner with some of their counterparts. You have Chinese military that has tested a hypersonic missile this summer and is building its nuclear capability. What is your general assessment of where things stand and are you concerned that the potential for armed conflict has grown over the course of your first 10 months in office?
Joe Biden: (07:12)
Well, let me start off by addressing the first part of not the question, the statement and that is that I indicated that China and Russia not showing up in Saudi Arabia was a problem. We showed up. We showed up and by showing up we’ve had a profound impact on the way I think the rest of the world is looking at the United States and its leadership role. I think it’s been a big mistake quite frankly for China with respect to China not showing up. The rest of the world is going to look to China and say, “What value additive are they providing?” And they’ve lost an ability to influence people around the world and all the people here at COP. The same way I would argue with regard to Russia. With regard to the more profound question about, am I worried about-
Joe Biden: (08:03)
With regard to the more profound question about am I worried about an armed conflict or some of that accidentally occurring with China? No, I’m not. But I have had, as I’ve said before, and I think we’ve talked about this, although I may be mistaken, that I think, as I’ve said, I look at China… And I’ve had hours of conversations with Xi Jinping, both in-person when I was vice president and since I’ve been president at least five or six hours worth of conversations on a telephone. And I’m going to be having a virtual summit with him. I made it clear, this is competition, it does not have to be conflict. There’s no reason there need be conflict, but I’ve also indicated to him, so I’m not reluctant to say it publicly, that we expect him to play by the rules of the road.
Joe Biden: (08:56)
We’re not going to change our attitude toward the constitution and international airspace, international sea lanes, et cetera. We also have made it clear that we have to work on dealing with things like cyber security and a whole range of other issues. But I’m not looking for, I don’t anticipate there will be a need for there will be physical conflict. But as you’ve heard me say this before, my dad had an expression, he said the only conflict worse than one that’s intended is one that’s unintended. One that’s unintended. And so, in my meetings with him virtually coming up, we haven’t set the exact date yet, I want to make sure there’s no misunderstanding. It’s competition, not conflict. So, there’s no unintended. Yeah, Peter?
Mr. President, you’re touting on this visit your 1.75 trillion plan that includes climate, but your party is still not united behind it. Senator Joe Manchin yesterday called it “budget gimmicks,” “shells games,” and “a recipe for economic crisis.” Today, he said he never signed off on the framework. So, do you have a specific commitment from Senator Manchin to support your Build Back Better bill, yes or no? And how you respond to those criticisms [inaudible 00:10:18]?
Joe Biden: (10:19)
Number one, I’m not going to talk about the specifics of my conversations. He will vote for this [inaudible 00:10:25] in this proposal what he has anticipated, and that is looking at the fine print and the detail of what comes out of the House in terms of the actual legislative initiative. I believe that Joe will be there. With regard to the issue of whether or not he thinks that he’s worried about this being inflationary or going to be negative impact in the economy, I think that I’ve made it clear to Joe, and we’ll continue to and we will, that… I apologize to repeat it, Peter, but 17 Nobel laureates rates in economics that it’s going to lower inflation, raise wages, increase competition, create two million jobs a year, et cetera. And so, I think that I understand that Joe is looking for the precise detail to make sure nothing got slipped in in terms of the way in which the legislation got written that is different than he acknowledged he would agree. But I think we’ll get this done.
You mentioned the word inflation there. You recently said you have no short-term answer to bring down gas prices, but as you know, it’s not just gas prices now. Rents are up. The cost of everyday items are up. Inflation in the US is at a 13 year high. So, when specifically should Americans expect those prices to come down?
Joe Biden: (11:48)
Well, look, first of all, the significant reason why prices are up is because of COVID affecting supply chain. I mean, I’m not trying to be… I know you know this. Number one. Number two, if you take a look at gas prices and you take a look at oil prices, that is a consequence of, thus far, the refusal of Russia or the OPEC nations to pump more oil. And we’ll see what happens on that score sooner than later. Number three, I think if you take a look at what we’re talking about, you look to this coming Thanksgiving, we’re in a situation where we find that we are in a very different circumstance. Last Thanksgiving, as I said this year we’re working on a supply chain issue. Well, last Thanksgiving, I sat down with my wife, my daughter, and my son-in-law. This Thanksgiving we’re all in a very different circumstance. Things are a hell of a lot better. And the wages have gone up higher faster than inflation. And we have generated real economic growth. It doesn’t mean these dislocations aren’t real. They do affect people’s lives.
Joe Biden: (13:21)
For example, one of the reasons why I decided to talk about the need to deal with the operation and the gouging that occurs in some of the pricing of beef and chicken and other things, is that that’s why I indicated to you were going to look at whether or not there’s a violation of antitrust laws and what they’re doing. So, there’s a lot to look at. But the bottom line is that I think that, and anyone who would prefer, as bad as things are in terms of prices, helping hurting families now, trade this Thanksgiving for last Thanksgiving.
Joe Biden: (14:08)
Jen Epstein, Wall Street Journal.
Jen Epstein: (14:09)
Joe Biden: (14:11)
I mean, excuse me, I beg your pardon.
Jen Epstein: (14:14)
Joe Biden: (14:15)
I got it. I got it.
Jen Epstein: (14:17)
Joe Biden: (14:18)
Especially since my granddaughter works for you guys in a different circumstance, so I got it. I’m in trouble.
Jen Epstein: (14:24)
Well, I’m going to ask a very Bloomberg question to begin, which is, have you decided who you’ll nominate to chair the Federal Reserve Board? And if not, can you speak a little bit about what you’re thinking about if you consider choice for fed chair and the other seats that are open. This is the latest that a president has gone without nominating somebody the year before a nominee needs to be selected. And are you concerned about potentially having a short timeline especially if you’re not going to re-nominate Jerome Powell?
Joe Biden: (14:57)
No, no, and no. No, I’m not going to discuss it with you because that’s in the train now. We’ll be making those announcements fairly quickly. It’s been in train for some time, number one. Number two, I also would indicate that I think we’re going to have plenty of time to make sure all of the major nominees are able to be clear in time that where their terms would expire. And number three, I’ve given a lot of thought to it, and I’ve been meeting with my economic advisors on what the best choices are and we got a lot of good choices, but I’m not going to speculate now. Nancy, CPS. I think you had your hand up. I’m sorry, did you?
Thank you very much, Mr. President. Some of the commitments you made here won’t happen unless Congress passes future legislation. How do you convince Republicans, and even some Democrats to get behind more spending if they look at this conference and say, ” China isn’t meeting these global goals, Russia-
Right? China, isn’t meeting these global goals. Russia doesn’t intend to meet these global goals. India doesn’t plan to. Why should we?
Joe Biden: (16:11)
Because we want to be able to breathe, and we want to be able to leave the world. Look, I mean it sincerely. I think presumptuous of me to say, talk for another leader, but the fact that China is trying to assert understandably, a new role in the world as a world leader, not showing up, come on.
Joe Biden: (16:32)
The single most important thing that’s gotten the attention of the world is climate, everywhere from Iceland to Australia to… I mean, it just is a gigantic issue, and they’ve walked away. How do you do that and claim to be able to have any leadership mantle?
Joe Biden: (16:53)
Same with Putin in Russia. His tundra is burning. Literally the tundra is burning. He has serious, serious climate problems, and he is mum on the willingness to do anything. And so I genuinely believe, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart, when I said at COP7, excuse me, at the G7 that America was back, people wondered whether, well, is that really true?
Joe Biden: (17:27)
Well, we were able to change the dynamic of a lot of things coming out of the G7. I think what I’m about to say sounds awfully self-serve… Two world leaders came up to me today and said, “Thank you for your leadership. You’re making a big difference here. You’re moving people.”
Joe Biden: (17:45)
I think you and I talked about that, John, with one of the folks talking to us. And so I think the fact that America showed up, America showed up and decided to lead and lay out clearly what it wished to do.
Joe Biden: (17:59)
For example, as I said, the mere fact that we were able to go from seven or eight people or countries talking about, or maybe it was as high as 14, I don’t remember the original number, to deal with the whole notion of methane. Now 100 nations have signed. 100 nations, a hundred nations have signed on to reduce methane by 30% by 3030. And methane is 25 times more toxic to the environment than CO2.
Joe Biden: (18:37)
So we are making real progress. Or the deforestation issue. Look what we’re doing. Look what we’ve been able to put together. And in addition to that, one of the things that I feel the best about, and I don’t claim uniquely any unique credit for it. But I think that we’ve gotten for the first time a combination of dealing with an international problem that circumstances affect all nations, that we’ve not only gotten countries off the sideline in terms of making significant financial contributions, but literally, literally trillions of dollars worth of the private sector jumping in, knowing they’ve got to play and they’re going to play an incredibly positive part in dealing with these problems.
Joe Biden: (19:22)
It’s real, it’s genuine. And so I just think that old bad expression, proof of the puddings is in the eating. I feel confident we’re going to get done what we have to do at home in order to deliver.
Joe Biden: (19:39)
And lastly, if you take a look at what economy’s growing. The United States, it’s growing. It has problems mainly because of COVID and supply chain, but it’s growing. We’ve created over 6 million jobs. We’re leading the world in terms of the fastest growing economy, major economies.
Joe Biden: (20:04)
So I think we’re going through a difficult time in the world because of COVID, because of supply chain consequences, because of the environment and all that’s occurred, the way it’s in fact imploded in the near term. But as I said to you earlier, and I really mean it. I think it presents a gigantic opportunity, an opportunity to a sense, press the restart button and move in a direction that I think the vast majority of countries…
Joe Biden: (20:37)
And look, I’m sure you interview other world leaders that are here. The vast majority think this is an opportunity. I’m not quite sure exactly what to do, exactly how to do it. Not that I have all the answers, I’m not implying that. But they know that. They know that growth rests in dealing with the economy in a way that affects the whole notion of what we’re going to do about climate change. And it’s a gigantic opportunity.
Joe Biden: (21:09)
Okay. I called on the Wall Street Journal, Catherine. I got the wrong one. Sorry, let’s try the real Wall Street Journal.
Thank you very much, we are the real Wall Street Journal. Mr. President, you tweeted earlier asking Virginia and New Jersey residents to vote. Democrat Terry McAuliffe is struggling in a state that you won by 10 points. Do you see his problems as a rebuke of your presidency, and could this signal your real losses for Democrats in the midterms?
Joe Biden: (21:40)
We’re going to win. I think we’re going to win in Virginia. And you know, you’re reporting it being close. The race is very close. It’s about who shows up, who turns out. And granted, I did win by a large margin, but the point of the matter is that I think that this is going to be what we all knew from the beginning. It’s going to be a tight race, and it is tight. It’s going to get down to turnout, and it’s going to, my guess is I’m going to be landing at one o’clock in the morning East Coast time. That’s probably about the time we’ll be hearing what the final results are.
Joe Biden: (22:13)
I think we’re going to win New Jersey, as well. But look, the off-year is always unpredictable, especially when we don’t have a general election going on at the same time. That’s been the case up and down for a long time, especially as Virginia’s turned more and more blue.
Joe Biden: (22:35)
But having said that, I don’t believe, and I’ve not seen any evidence that whether or not I am doing well or poorly, whether or not I’ve got my agenda passed or not is going to have any real impact on winning and losing.
Joe Biden: (22:51)
Even if we had passed my agenda, I wouldn’t claim we won because Biden’s agenda passed. But I think it’s going to be very close. I think it’s going to get down to, as you all know, turnout. And I think that based on what I have heard so far, it’s awful hard for me to be prognosticating, which I don’t like doing as President anyway from overseas.
Joe Biden: (23:17)
But I hope that every eligible voter in Virginia and New Jersey shows up and votes, and the more of them do, the better off I think our chances are. And I think we’re going to win. Okay? All right. NPR, Scott?
You mentioned climate activists before, and I want to ask something about them. You’re touting agreements. Other world leaders have touted agreements, but the atmosphere around the conference here is skeptical, and it’s pretty angry. Climate activists feel like decades and decades of COPs have led to broken promises, and they feel like even if all of these goals are reached that you’re talking about the last few days, it’s just not enough right now. And I’m one-
… briefs that you’re talking about the last few days, it’s just not enough right now. And I’m wondering what you would say to the people outside who are really angry at this conference, especially at this moment, where Joe Manton has expressed, has created more doubt that your climate legislation will pass. And you’ve got a very conservative Supreme Court about to take a look at whether your EPA can regulate greenhouse gas emissions. What’s your message to people outside who just worry this all isn’t enough right now, given the crisis?
Joe Biden: (24:24)
Well first of all, I think anyone who is focused on the environment should be worried. We’ve got a lot more to do beyond what we’ve done. We’ve done more than we’ve ever done though. That’s the point. And more has to be done. And I don’t find… I didn’t have a single member of this conference come up to me and say, “Are you going to pass what you have? And what do you think? How’s that going to affect and what are you going to do?” What they’re looking at is what in fact has happened in terms of everything from dealing with deforestation to what we’re going to do on Build Back Better and how we’ve been able to focus now. I mean, when’s the last time you heard world leaders sit down together and agree that what they’re going to do is when they deal with the needs of the infrastructure of other countries, that they’re going to focus first and foremost on whether or not what the climate impact is on that?
Joe Biden: (25:26)
So I think, look, there’s a reason for people to be worried. I’m worried. I’m worried if we don’t continue to move forward and make the kind of progress we’re now making that it’s going to… I mean, we’ve thrown into jeopardy the prospect that we’re going to be able to keep the temperature rising above 1.5 degree Celsius. But I’m optimistic because I think there’s a… How can I say it? I guess maybe the best way to say it, Scott, is what I feel is that the populations of each of our countries have a different perspective than they did at COP25. I think there is, not because of necessarily any of the leaders of any of our countries, including mine, that all of a sudden people are seeing these things happening they never thought would happen.
Joe Biden: (26:27)
They’re seeing people drown in their basements in Queens, New York because of flooding and rain. They’re seeing more territory burned down in the United States just since the first of the year than it makes up the entire land mass of the state of New Jersey. They’ve seen hurricane with a top winds of 178 miles an hour. I mean, so they’re looking at these things. They’re seeing the water’s warming, they’re seeing a whole range of things occurring around the world that haven’t happened. And it’s sort of like, “Whoa, whoa,” because I don’t get what I used to get when I started to… There’s no reason why anyone remember this, but back when a fine Republican, a guy named Dick Luger was from the state of Indiana. And he and I were either the chairman or ranking members of the foreign relations committee. This is over 20 years ago. We ended up proposing, and it worked, but it got no enthusiasm, a thing for debt for nature swaps.
Joe Biden: (27:31)
People looked at us like, “What the hell are you doing? Why are you forgiving the debt so Brazil won’t burn down more of the forest? Why are you doing that? So they will do…” Now everybody goes, “Whoa, what else can you do? What else can you do?” So I think there’s a whole different attitude that’s out there. And I think this is being led, and I’m not being solicitous here, I think this is being led by my granddaughters and their friends, that generation. I think they’re out there going, “Whoa.” And they’re having a profound impact, having a profound impact on their parents and their grandparents about what’s happening. And then all these climactic and climatic acting things have happened that people are now paying attention like they never did before. So, there’s a lot more to do, and it’s going to determine whether or not we are going to be able to fund what we’re talking about.
Joe Biden: (28:32)
But for example, even if the funding didn’t come from some of the governments, you have the private sector now engaged where they’re talking about and investing literally the need to invest over trillions of dollars out off the sidelines. It’s bankers that are now deciding they got to… I talked a long time ago with you all about that you have major corporate America pricing in the price of carbon. It matters. So things are changing. We just have to have the right stewardship and enough sense as world leaders to get it right. So thank you also very much. Appreciate it.