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Biden addresses UN climate conference in Egypt

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

President Biden has addressed the annual U.N. climate conference happening in Egypt, telling the audience that the U.S. will take a leadership role in trying to help developing countries counteract the most dangerous effects of climate change. His speech today came in the middle of the two-week meeting where there have been many grim warnings about how carbon emissions are causing higher temperatures, contributing to droughts, floods and other natural disasters.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: And so this gathering must be the moment to recommit our future and our shared capacity to write a better story for the world.

MARTIN: NPR's Ruth Sherlock is covering the conference and joins me now from Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. Hi, Ruth. Have we got Ruth?

RUTH SHERLOCK, BYLINE: Hello?

MARTIN: Hey, Ruth. There's a bit of a delay on the line.

SHERLOCK: Hi, I'm here.

MARTIN: Yeah. Let me just ask you - it is one thing to talk about leadership, it is another thing to actually lead. We'll get into the promises that President Biden made. But first, recap what his message was in this address.

SHERLOCK: Right. Well, he said that he's ready to lead the world in the energy transition during what is a critical decade in the fight against global warming. He focused a lot, Rachel, as you said in the introduction, a lot on developing countries that are suffering the worst effects of climate change. Here's what he said.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BIDEN: It's true. So many disasters. The climate crisis is hitting hardest those countries and communities that have the fewest resources to respond and to recover.

MARTIN: Few resources to respond and to recover, Ruth.

SHERLOCK: That's right. He announced more U.S. (inaudible) developing countries (inaudible) like flooding and droughts. And he said that the U.S. is also going to give more money to develop new renewable energy sources in these countries. And he spoke about a priority to the administration, which is getting more private companies in the global north more involved in financing projects that tackle climate change in (inaudible) which is something that businesses see as risky. He also said the United States is on track to meet its own goal of cutting carbon dioxide emissions by half from a 2005 baseline. And, you know, this is in large part due to the recent passing of the Inflation Reduction Act in the U.S., which is full of provisions for making the U.S. economy greener through renewable energy and other projects.

MARTIN: So I just want to recap a little of what you said because we're having a hard time with your line, but you're saying that the president talked about getting private companies involved to help finance programs in the developing world, which may be a little bit risky, some might see as a risky investment. But those programs are designed to help those countries combat the effects of climate change. So much of this comes down to money, Ruth. I mean, it's going to cost a lot for developing countries to grow their own economies, which is why they're looking to the U.S. and its allies and other countries. How is the U.S. proposing to do this, to get private investment into these areas?

SHERLOCK: Well, one of the projects is something that John Kerry, the U.S. climate envoy, spoke about earlier this week. Under that proposal, private companies in the U.S. and abroad would buy these so-called carbon credits, which represent (inaudible) that were reduced or removed from the atmosphere but not necessarily by those same companies. So it's like an exchange. And under these ideas, the companies would pay developing countries to move away from coal power as a way of making up their own emissions. It is a controversial idea. You know, the carbon market is poorly regulated, and some carbon offset projects do amount to greenwashing. But U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has been supportive of the U.S.-led plan so long as there are safeguards to it.

MARTIN: We're going to have much more reporting on this. We appreciate you, NPR's Ruth Sherlock. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.