Exclusive-Biden unlikely to attend Dubai COP climate meeting, sources say

By Trevor Hunnicutt, Jeff Mason and Alexander Cornwell

WASHINGTON/ABU DHABI (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden is unlikely to attend a gathering of world leaders in November focused on climate change, according to two U.S. officials and another person briefed on the event’s planning.

The 28th meeting of the United Nations “Conference of the Parties” on climate, known as COP28, takes places from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, a major oil producer.

Biden’s schedule was not fixed, could still change and was not official until it had been announced, the people warned. Two said that no final decision had been made.

The White House said it had no updates on Biden’s travel plans.

“President Biden has led and delivered on the most ambitious climate agenda in history, both at home and abroad. Although we don’t have any travel updates to share at this time, the Administration looks forward to a robust and productive COP28,” a spokesperson said.

Biden aides are balancing demands for the president’s time amid a Middle East war and a showdown with a Republican-controlled House of Representatives over federal spending, as well as ahead of a presidential campaign season that aides expect to heat up in January.

Dozens of countries plan to push for the world’s first deal to phase out CO2-emitting coal, oil and gas at the Dubai meeting.

Such a deal would be a feather in the Democratic president’s cap ahead of a 2024 presidential election where many liberal and younger voters rank climate change as a top issue.

The event would also allow Biden a chance to connect in person with Arab and other world leaders to discuss the war in Gaza after a planned summit this month in Jordan was canceled. Last year Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Jordan’s King Abdullah II, and France’s President Emmanuel Macron were among the attendees.

Biden has attended both of the COP summits since his 2021 inauguration. Former President Donald Trump, a Republican seeking a second term in 2024, skipped the events after announcing that the country would withdraw from the Paris Agreement, the global pact to fight climate change. Biden returned the U.S. to the pact.

Biden’s participation in last year’s COP27 event in Egypt was announced just two weeks prior to the event. There, he touted the climate provisions in the then-recently passed Inflation Reduction Act.

Biden skipped a summit of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in September, sending Vice President Kamala Harris in his place.

Asked if she would attend COP28, a spokesperson for Harris said “we don’t have any travel to announce.”

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt, Jeff Mason and Alexander Cornwell; Additional reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Heather Timmons and Stephen Coates)