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Harris plans to attend the COP28 climate summit

Vice President Harris speaks outside the White House on Nov. 8. Harris is planning to travel to the COP28 international climate summit this week, according to a source familiar with the plans.
Win McNamee
Getty Images
Vice President Harris speaks outside the White House on Nov. 8. Harris is planning to travel to the COP28 international climate summit this week, according to a source familiar with the plans.

Updated November 29, 2023 at 2:10 PM ET

Vice President Harris is planning to attend the COP28 summit in United Arab Emirates this week, the White House has announced.

The trip follows some pushback on the administration for not announcing plans to send President Biden to the global climate meeting, which kicks off on Thursday and lasts until Dec. 12. Biden attended the last two years.

A source earlier in the day familiar with the plan to send Harris characterized the decision as "last minute" and pointed to reporting from a Nov. 26 story in The New York Times, which at that point said Harris had no plans to attend the conference.

The White House says Biden spoke Wednesday with UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed to affirm strong ties between the countries and to thank him for organizing the climate conference. A readout of the call added:

"The President asked Vice President Harris to attend the COP28 Leaders Summit on his behalf to showcase U.S. global leadership on climate at home and abroad and to help galvanize increased global ambition at this critical event."

The U.S. is also sending special climate envoy John Kerry and other senior officials to the summit.

Addressing climate change was a key part of Biden's campaign messaging during his 2020 campaign, and when he took office, he named it a top priority for his administration. Last year he signed the Inflation Reduction Act, which will invest $369 billion into curbing emissions.

However, the administration continues to face calls from climate activists to take further action. Among those calling for Biden to attend this year's conference is the youth-run advocacy group Sunrise Movement.

"While it's positive to have VP Harris at COP28, Biden's absence still suggests to the public that leadership on global climate solutions is not his priority," Sunrise political director Michele Weindling told NPR in a statement.

The blowback on Biden around COP28 prompted the president's team to ask Harris to attend the summit, the source familiar with the planning told NPR. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the decision.

Young voters could play a crucial role in Biden's reelection bid next year after helping propel him to victory in 2020. But their support isn't guaranteed.

In recent months, Harris has made direct appeals to Gen Z and millennial voters, launching a cross-country college tour, where she talked about top issues for young Americans, including addressing the climate crisis.

Environmental issues remain a top issue for many younger voters. An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll from this summer found that nearly 6 in 10 millennial and Gen Z Americans believe addressing climate change should be a priority even at the risk of slowing economic growth — the most of any age group surveyed.

Among Democrats, 80% feel it should be a priority regardless of economic effects, compared to just 23% of Republicans.

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Deepa Shivaram
Deepa Shivaram is a multi-platform political reporter on NPR's Washington Desk.
Elena Moore is a production assistant for the NPR Politics Podcast. She also fills in as a reporter for the NewsDesk. Moore previously worked as a production assistant for Morning Edition. During the 2020 presidential campaign, she worked for the Washington Desk as an editorial assistant, doing both research and reporting. Before coming to NPR, Moore worked at NBC News. She is a graduate of The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and is originally and proudly from Brooklyn, N.Y.