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Biden says Trump's withdrawal from Paris climate pact put us "behind the eight ball"

President Biden urges action at climate summit 03:24

President Biden told world leaders on Monday that the U.S. was "back at the table," ready not only to join other nations, but lead them in combating climate change. 

Mr. Biden referred only indirectly to his predecessor's withdrawal from the 2015 Paris climate pact in his remarks at the opening of COP26, the United Nations climate change conference in Glasgow, Scotland. But he went further at an event later in the day, taking the unusual step of apologizing for former President Donald Trump's actions.

"I guess I shouldn't apologize, but I do apologize for the fact that the United States, in the last administration, pulled out of the Paris Accord and put us sort of behind the eight ball," he said.

Leaders risk climate catastrophe without action 01:56

Mr. Biden was attending COP26 along with more than 100 other leaders from nations that signed onto the 2015 Paris Agreement. He called on other countries to "step up to the plate," and said the conference in Glasgow "isn't the end of the journey," but "just the starting line to begin to really take for the first time really decisive action."

In his address, Mr. Biden stressed that human-caused damage to the climate was already taking a devastating toll on people through natural disasters, and it could only be addressed if nations come together. 

"Worse is yet to come if we fail to seize this moment," the president said, promising that the U.S. would lead by example, not words.

COP26: What to expect at the upcoming U.N. climate summit 07:00

Prince Charles also addressed the leaders, warning them that "the eyes and hopes of the world are upon you to act with all dispatch, and decisively, because time has run out." 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who kicked off the conference, portrayed the need for climate action in stark terms, saying the world was strapped to a "ticking doomsday device."

This is the 26th time world leaders have met to try to limit global warming. The conference was postponed for a year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, but the extra year of preparation doesn't seem to have improved its chance of success.

The high-stakes summit has been called a last chance for countries to come together to stop catastrophic global warming. Almost 200 nations sent high-level delegations. They hope to put the world back on track to meet the goals set in Paris, including reducing global carbon emissions to zero by 2050, and limiting the planet's overall warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit.

Scientists calculate that to do that, planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions need to be halved by the end of this decade. As it stands now, they'll continue to rise. Experts warn that time left to take action to achieve the Paris goals is quickly slipping away, and the consequences of failure would be catastrophic for humanity.

Under the Paris agreement, governments were supposed to make increasingly larger cuts in their greenhouse gas emissions. But the required cuts haven't been made. The wildfires, storms, heatwaves, melting of polar ice and rising sea levels we've seen already are just a taste of what could come.

"Everything that science had actually looked at was underestimated," former U.N. climate chief Christina Figueres, who is widely credited with banging heads together to make the Paris deal happen, told CBS News ahead of COP26. "In terms of the degree of heating, the impacts, the human misery cost, the infrastructure cost… it's all happening faster than we ever thought."

COP26 Summit - Day Two
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (L) and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (R) greet President Joe Biden as he arrives for the COP26 U.N. climate change conference in Glasgow, Scotland, November 1, 2021. Chris Furlong/Getty

Climate change tops Mr. Biden's overseas agenda. He arrived on Monday fresh from the G20 economic summit in Rome, where he said his personal relationships with other leaders allowed them to make real progress.

But as he and other world leaders spoke about getting the world back on track, there were some notable absences. President Xi Jinping of China and Russia's Vladimir Putin chose not to attend COP26.

Before he arrived, Mr. Biden said the focus should be on what countries like China, Russia and Saudi Arabia are not doing to address climate change, and he called it "disappointing" that those nations "basically didn't show up, in terms of any commitments to deal with climate change."

Oxfam activists protest during COP26 in Glasgow
Oxfam activists with 'Big Heads' of Russia's President Vladimir Putin, Italy's Prime Minister Mario Draghi, France's President Emmanuel Macron, U.S. President Joe Biden, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi and China's President Xi Jinping perform in a Scottish pipe band, as the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP26) takes place in Glasgow, Scotland, November 1, 2021. LEE SMITH/REUTERS

"Anyone that goes to COP26 to expect that we're going to guarantee a pathway to 1.5 [degrees temperature cap] is simply not seeing the reality of things," Figueres told CBS News. "We're just not going to get there."

Instead, she said the conference should be about "getting healthily close to 1.5 degrees."

Even that may prove a mighty challenge.

Follow the latest news from the COP26 conference below.


Biden apologizes because Trump withdrawal from Paris pact put us "behind the eight ball"

At an event on "action and solidarity," President Biden took the unusual step of apologizing for Mr. Trump for withdrawing from the Paris climate accord.

"I guess I shouldn't apologize, but I do apologize for the fact that the United States, in the last administration, pulled out of the Paris Accord and put us sort of behind the eight ball," he said. 

He also vowed that "the United States, if I have anything to do with it, we'll do our part," He touched on the commitment he had made at the United Nations to work with Congress to quadruple climate financing by 2024, referring to it as the "next big case" he has to make at home.

And he called on other countries to "step up to the plate," and said the meeting in Glasgow "isn't the end of the journey," but "just the starting line to begin to really take for the first time really decisive action."

By Sara Cook

Biden says U.S. "back at the table," urges other nations to step up to address climate crisis

Addressing the conference on Monday, President Biden told world leaders the United States is "back at the table" in the fight against global warming. 

Biden says fighting climate change is a moral and economic imperative 13:06

"My administration is working overtime to show that our climate commitment is action, not words," Mr. Biden said, slighting former President Donald Trump, who removed the United States from the Paris Agreement. 

Mr. Biden called the COP26 conference an "inflection point in world history," asking other nations if they would "seize the enormous opportunity before us, or will we condemn future generations to suffer?"  

While his own climate legislation has been locked in congressional negotiations for months, Mr. Biden said his agenda would be "the most significant investment to deal with the climate crisis that any advanced nation has made, ever."

He announced a new U.S. long-term strategy to address the climate crisis. The plan lays out the administration's "whole-of-government approach" to reaching Mr. Biden's goals of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030, and achieving net-zero by 2050. 

Mr. Biden touted his "Build Back Better" agenda, which includes $555 billion in climate investments and is the largest piece of the spending framework. If passed, the plan would be the largest single climate investment in U.S. history, but alone would fail to reach Mr. Biden's climate goals. 

Mr. Biden said on Sunday that he hoped the U.S. Congress would approve the plan this week. 

The president also announced plans for the "President's  Emergency Plan for  Adaptation and Resilience," a commitment to provide $3 billion in adaptation finance for smaller and developing countries annually by fiscal year 2024. The plan would require congressional approval. 

By Cara Korte

Attenborough says we're "already in trouble," but fixes possible in a generation

Iconic British naturalist and environmental campaigner Sir David Attenborough beseeched world leaders on Monday to act fast, warning that humanity's burning of fossil fuels, destruction of nature, and releasing of carbon into the atmosphere "at an unprecedented pace and scale" had left us "already in trouble."

He said the "stability we all depend on" in the Earth's climate was breaking. 

Urging leaders to restore natural habitats and curb reliance on fossil fuels, Attenborough wondered aloud how the human story might end — whether it could be a "tale of the smartest species doomed by that human characteristic of failing to see the bigger picture in pursuit of short term goals?"  

COP26 Summit - Day Two
Sir David Attenborough delivers a speech during the opening ceremony of the U.N. Climate Change Conference COP26, November 1, 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland. Pool/Getty

Responding to a question posed to the COP26 conference, about whether enough could be done within the timespan of a single generation to repair the damage done already, Attenborough said he did believe it was possible.

"We have to," he said "We need to not just talk about what we can do, but to do what we can."

By Tucker Reals

Prince Charles warns leaders to act, "because time has run out"

Prince Charles, heir to the British throne and a long-time campaigner on environmental issues, warned on Monday that climate change and the human-caused degradation of the environment were a more serious threat to humanity than the coronavirus pandemic.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us just how devastating a global, cross-border threat can be," the prince said. "Climate change and biodiversity loss are no different. In fact, they pose an even greater existential threat, to the extent that we have to put ourselves on what might be called a war-like footing."

Addressing the leaders gathered in Glasgow, the Prince of Wales warned them that "the eyes and hopes of the world are upon you to act with all dispatch, and decisively, because time has run out."

COP26 Summit - Day Two
Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, walks to the podium to address the opening ceremony of the U.N. Climate Change Conference COP26, November 1, 2021, in Glasgow, Scotland. Jeff Mitchell/Getty

The British royal spoke after a video was shown to the conference highlighting climate change-linked catastrophes around the world, and he said "any leader who has had to confront such life-threatening challenges knows that the cost of inaction is far greater than the cost of prevention."

"I can only urge you, as the world's decision-makers, to find practical ways of overcoming differences so we can all get down to work, together, to rescue this precious planet and save the threatened future of our young people."  

By Tucker Reals

President Biden to deliver remarks to COP26

President Biden is to deliver remarks to fellow leaders, diplomats and others gathered at the COP26 conference on Monday. 

Later on Monday President Biden is to hold a bilateral meeting with President Joko Widodo of Indonesia, before attending a reception hosted by U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Biden attending key global climate conference in Scotland 07:45
By Tucker Reals

Turkish leader skips COP26 over "security"

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday he had cancelled his planned attendance at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow because of a dispute over the security protocol.

Erdogan had been due to travel to Scotland after holding a crunch meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Rome.

But he told reporters on board his flight back to Turkey that the Glasgow event organizers had failed to address his delegation's security concerns.

"When our demands were not met, we gave up on going to Glasgow," the Anadolu state news agency quoted Erdogan as saying. "This was not only about our own security, but also about the reputation of our country."

G20 Rome Summit - Day 2
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends a press conference at the end of the Rome G20 Summit, October 31, 2021 in Rome, Italy. Antonio Masiello/Getty

A report by the Middle East Eye website cited Turkish sources as saying organizers had put a limit on the size of Erdogan's travelling delegation.

COP26 organizers issued no immediate comment.


U.K. PM Boris Johnson calls climate crisis a "ticking doomsday device"

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson opened the global climate summit on Monday by saying the world was strapped to a "doomsday device." 

Johnson likened the Earth's position to that of fictional secret agent James Bond — strapped to a bomb that will destroy the planet and trying to work out how to defuse it. 

He told leaders on Monday that "we are in roughly the same position" — only now the "ticking doomsday device" is real and not fiction. 

COP26 Summit - Day Two
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during the opening ceremony of the U.N. Climate Change Conference COP26, November 1, 2021, in Glasgow, Scotland. Jeff Mitchell/Getty

He was kicking off the world leaders' summit portion of a U.N. climate conference. The meeting is aimed at getting agreement to curb carbon emissions fast enough to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius below pre-industrial levels.  

By The Associated Press

U.N. chief: We're "digging our own graves" with fossil fuel addiction

In his opening statement at COP26, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned world leaders that nations' "addiction to fossil fuels is pushing humanity to the brink. We face a stark choice: Either we stop it — or it stops us."

"We are digging our own graves," the U.N. chief cautioned, chastising humanity for "treating nature like a toilet."

Guterres appealed for nations to invest to create climate resilient economies, which he said would result in sustainable growth and more jobs. He called for concrete action to reduce global emissions by 45% by 2030; for donor countries to allocate half their climate finance to adaptation to protect vulnerable communities, and to commit to $100 billion a year of climate finance in support of developing countries. 

COP26 in Glasgow
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks with United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres while receiving attendees for the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, November 1, 2021. POOL/REUTERS

Guterres painted a dark picture of the present, and the future without sufficient commitments.

"Our planet is changing before our eyes — from the ocean depths to mountain tops; from melting glaciers to relentless extreme weather events. Sea-level rise is double the rate it was 30 years ago. Oceans are hotter than ever — and getting warmer faster," he said, imploring leaders to "choose to safeguard our future and save humanity." 

By Pamela Falk

Putin has nothing to say to COP26

Russian President Vladimir Putin will not address the climate conference in Glasgow because it has proven technically impossible to organize a live video link, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

"The president will not deliver a speech because a video link possibility is not envisaged in Glasgow," Peskov said in Moscow on Monday.

Earlier, Peskov dismissed President Biden's criticism of Russia, which he said was showing a "disappointing" lack of commitment to address climate change along with China.

Russia orders businesses nationwide to shut down for a week amid COVID-19 surge 02:19

Russia, Peskov insisted, had already "clearly stated its prospects" to address global warming at the G20 conference over the weekend.

"Besides, Russia is by many parameters ahead of many countries, including the countries of Western Europe, in the transition to less carbon-intensive methods of [energy] generation and production," the Kremlin spokesman argued.

"Russia is actively involved [in the green energy agenda], Russia is making a lot of efforts and will be doing that in a systemic way to reduce man-induced impact on climate on its side," Peskov said, urging all nations to "take into account the needs of developing countries, which did not pollute the Earth's atmosphere much in the past."

By Mary Ilyushina

Legislative battle at home "hasn't stood in the way" of Biden's climate message

As CBS News correspondent Weijia Jiang reports, President Biden was arriving at the COP26 conference on Monday as members of his own party negotiate in Washington over legislation that includes billions of dollars to help combat global warming. Speaking over the weekend at the G20 summit in Rome, Mr. Biden was optimistic that both his "Build Back Better" agenda and his infrastructure bill would be passed by congress by the end of the week.  

Combined, the president said those bills "have $900 billion in climate resistance and dealing with climate and resilience, and it's the largest investment in the history of the world that has ever occurred, and it's gonna pass."

Ro Khanna, leading House progressive, says he's ready to vote for infrastructure and social spending bills 06:00

But it hasn't yet, and as he looks to lead the world toward achieving the Paris agreement goals, that hasn't gone unnoticed. On the flight to Scotland on Monday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters that the current legislative impasse in Washington wouldn't detract from the president's message to other world leaders.

He said Mr. Biden's contemporaries were a "sophisticated bunch" who understand the legislative process.

"No one is out there saying, 'Well, I guess since the ink's not dry on the bill, the U.S. isn't going to make these commitments,'" Sullivan insisted, adding that it, "hasn't stood in the way of the president being able to look the whole world in the eye and say, 'the U.S. is doing its part."

By Tucker Reals
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