Surrounded by foreign leaders, President Biden appeared to doze off while listening to the opening speeches at Monday’s United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP26.
Elected at 78-years-old, Biden is the oldest U.S. president in history. Critics, including some elected Republicans, have raised concerns about his frequent rhetorical missteps and refusal to engage with the press outside of taking questions from pre-approved reporters. In a video of the event, Biden can be seen closing his eyes for an extended period of time as one of the invited speakers addressed the crowd, only to open his eyes when an aide approaches and begins speaking to him.
Biden appeared to fall asleep shortly before taking the stage to deliver opening remarks, in which he apologized for President Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accords.
Delegations from several developed nations will meet this week in Glasgow, Scotland for twelve days of talks to update their plans and pledges to reduce global carbon emissions in accordance with the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. Early in its term, the Biden administration pronounced climate change an existential threat to the United States and the world, making it a policy priority of paramount importance.
In September, Biden argued that the recent hurricane cycle provides abounding evidence of a “climate crisis” and that it means “code red” for the world. White House national climate adviser Gina McCarthy warned that climate has devolved into a “health emergency.” The White House has often linked global warming with identity politics, claiming that its impacts “disproportionately affect poor and minority communities.”
Some scientists, however, reject the apocalyptic predictions for the environment, such as rapidly accelerating sea-level rise, increasingly extreme weather, and deadlier forest fires, as well as the idea that the globe faces a “climate emergency.”
After former President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris agreement, Biden renewed American participation as one of his first acts in office. Hosted by the UK in partnership with Italy, the COP26 is expected to result in expanded climate mitigation commitments from pivotal countries. While the Paris summit aimed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels, the COP26, according to its website, calls that previous target not ambitious enough.
The Democratic-spearheaded reconciliation package pending in Congress was originally pitched as a social spending bill with provisions addressing climate change, as well as childcare, education, and healthcare. After weeks of debate, negotiation, and partisan sparring, the Biden administration last week announced a revised framework for the reconciliation package, cut down to $1.75 trillion from the initially proposed $3.5 trillion, that still includes investments for clean energy infrastructure.