Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin “know they’re invited” to join a US-hosted virtual summit on climate, President Joe Biden told reporters on Friday.
“I haven’t yet, but they know they’re invited,” Biden said, when asked on the White House’s South Lawn if he’d invited the two leaders to join the event. Biden added he hadn’t spoken with either one of them as “individuals.”
“I just got off the phone speaking with the British Prime Minister, and yesterday I spoke with all the members of the EU,” the President said, “but I haven’t spoken to those two.”
Biden will host a two-day climate summit of world leaders starting on Earth Day, April 22, in which he will outline the US goal for reductions of carbon emissions by 2030 — known as the nationally determined contribution under the Paris accord.
The White House on Friday afternoon said a total of 40 world leaders, including Xi and Putin, were invited to the conference, which will be live streamed to the public.
“President Biden took action his first day in office to return the United States to the Paris Agreement. Days later, on January 27, he announced that he would soon convene a leaders summit to galvanize efforts by the major economies to tackle the climate crisis,” the White House said in the statement. “The Leaders Summit on Climate will underscore the urgency — and the economic benefits — of stronger climate action. It will be a key milestone on the road to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) this November in Glasgow.”
On the campaign trail, Biden made climate change a central issue, setting a goal of ensuring that the US achieves net-zero emissions by 2050, and signed several executive actions his first week in office related to the climate crisis, including one directing the secretary of the Interior to pause on entering into new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or offshore waters.
The President and other administration officials have emphasized that the White House is taking a “whole of government” approach to climate change. They’ve also underscored that they believe the President’s actions will help spur job growth, and categorized people working in industries vulnerable to job loss, such as coal miners, under their umbrella of environmental justice.
The event marks the first time since former President Barack Obama left office that the US has taken the lead on climate change issues. President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the Paris Climate Accord and was often publicly skeptical that global warming was a real phenomenon.
It will also be the first face-to-face, albeit virtual, meeting that Biden will attend with Xi and Putin since taking office.
The President has talked at length about his extensive interactions with the two leaders he had while he was vice president. But that relationship hasn’t kept him from publicly criticizing both men as President. In recent weeks, Biden has called Putin “a killer” and — despite a two-hour phone call with Xi — said Thursday that Xi “doesn’t have a democratic — with a small ‘D’ — bone in his body, but he’s a smart, smart guy. He’s one of the guys, like [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, who thinks that autocracy is the wave of the future.”