Biden says U.S. will 'do our part to avert' a 'climate hell' during address in Egypt

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt - President Biden pledged the United States will "do our part to avert" a "climate hell," citing a warning made by the U.N. secretary general earlier this week in Sharm el-Sheikh, the Egyptian resort city hosting this year's U.N. Climate Change Conference.

"We're not ignoring harbingers that are already here," Biden said. "So many disasters - the climate crisis is hitting hardest those countries and communities that have the fewest resources to respond and to recover." His appearance comes near the end of the first week of the conference, known as COP27, where talks have heavily focused on wealthy nations' obligations to reduce their own emissions and help address the consequences of climate change in the developing world.

Biden also touted his administration's climate record.

The United States is "meeting the climate crisis with urgency and determination," Biden said, arguing his efforts would help ensure "a cleaner, healthier and safer planet for us all."

Biden detailed how, under his watch, the United States quickly rejoined the international Paris climate accord that it had withdrawn from under former president Donald Trump - "I apologize we ever pulled out of the agreement," he said.

During a news conference, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told delegates that the landmark climate legislation Congress passed this summer was "so historic in terms of its vision," and had spread hope far beyond U.S. borders.

And the delegation of House Republicans visiting the conference plans to argue that nuclear power and natural gas are essential to meeting global climate goals.

Meanwhile on Friday, the chief climate negotiator for the largest bloc of developing nations told The Washington Post he "wholeheartedly" supports the idea of taxing fossil fuel companies to pay for "loss and damage" - the irreversible harms from climate change that are already bombarding the developing world.

Munir Akram, Pakistan's permanent representative to the United Nations and the lead climate negotiator for a group of developing countries known as the G77, is one of the most prominent negotiators at COP27 to endorse the idea floated by the U.N. secretary general and several small island states.

"But I don't know whether it can ever happen," Akram said in an interview.

The G77 successfully pushed to have funding for loss and damage added to the conference agenda at the start of the ongoing U.N. climate talks. Akram said the recent catastrophic floods in Pakistan, which affected some 33 million people and wreaked $30 billion in damage, are a vivid example of the need for a new finance mechanism that can quickly get resources to disaster-struck nations.

At the U.N. General Assembly in September, Secretary General António Guterres called on countries to tax oil and gas companies' windfall profits and use the funds to help developing countries cope with sea level rise, prolonged droughts, extreme weather and other climate impacts.

The idea gained steam among leaders from small island countries at COP27; Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne told world leaders earlier this week that fossil fuel companies should not be able to profit "at the expense of civilization."

But it remains an open question whether the talks in Egypt will yield progress on the issue - let alone where the funds might come from. Wealthy nations have historically resisted any financial commitments around loss and damage, worried that it could lead to them being held legally liable for climate impacts.

Asked about loss and damage at a news conference in Egypt Friday, White House national climate adviser Ali Zaidi sidestepped the question, saying only that Biden is committed to "partnership and solidarity" with people facing climate impacts around the world.