President Joe Biden speaks during the COP26 UN Climate Summit, on November 1, 2021, in Glasgow, Scotland. Image Credit: AP

Glasgow: President Joe Biden said the US is ready to be a leader again in the fight against climate change, addressing a United Nations conference in Glasgow, Scotland, despite discord at home over his ambition to steer billions of taxpayer dollars toward renewable energy.

The Biden administration will “demonstrate to the world the United States is not only back at the table, hopefully leading by the power of our example,” the president said Monday in a speech to the summit. “I know it hasn’t been the case and that’s why my administration is working overtime to show that our climate commitment is action, not words.”

“There’s no more time to hang back or sit on a fence or argue amongst ourselves,” he added. “This is the challenge of our collective lifetimes.”

He added that high energy prices only underscore the need to diversify sources and adopt new clean-energy technology.

On the opening day of COP26 conference, world leaders, environmental experts and activists pleaded for decisive action to halt global warming.

The task of the conference in the Scottish city was made even more daunting by the failure of the Group of 20 major industrial nations to agree ambitious new commitments at a weekend summit in Rome.

The G20 is responsible for around 80% of emissions of carbon dioxide — the gas produced by burning fossil fuels that is the main cause of the heatwaves, droughts, floods and storms that are growing in intensity worldwide.

“Humanity has long since run down the clock on climate change. It’s one minute to midnight on that Doomsday clock and we need to act now,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the opening ceremony.

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From left: Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Sir David Attenborough attend the opening ceremony of the summit in Glasgow. Image Credit: AP

As Johnson took the stage, Swedish activist Greta Thunberg retweeted an appeal for her millions of supporters to sign an open letter accusing leaders of betrayal.

“This is not a drill. It’s code red for the Earth,” it read.

Biden said the US would lay out a long-term strategy to reach net-zero emissions by mid-century. Though there are multiple paths to reach those goals, the White House says they all build on the same foundation of rapidly electrifying cars and buildings while shifting to zero-emission fuels to supply their power.

Under that blueprint released on Monday, the US also needs to improve efficiency, pare methane and boost efforts to strip carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

“The science is clear. We only have a brief window left before us to raise our ambitions,” Biden said. “This is the decisive decade in which we have an opportunity to prove ourselves.”

Biden proposed that the US government spend $3 billion a year to help vulnerable nations adapt to rising seas, droughts and other consequences of global warming. That would be part of the $11.4 billion the president has already promised to provide for climate finance each year by 2024, all of which would need congressional approval.

But his pledge falls well short of calls for half of climate finance to go toward adaptation.

Underlining concerns over the world’s addiction to fossil fuels and climate change, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres earlier said the world faces a stark choice warning world leaders to stop “treating nature like a toilet”.

In his speech at the COP-26 World Leaders’ Summit the UN chief told world leaders that “we are digging our own graves by failing to act fast enough on climate change.”

Emphasising that the six years since Paris Climate Agreement have been the six hottest years on record, Guterres said that the world’s addiction to fossil fuels is pushing humanity to the brink.

“We face a stark choice - either we stop it or it stops us. It’s time to say, enough,” Guterres added.