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Biden touts US efforts as oil overshadows climate summit

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden touted “unprecedented” climate efforts by his administration on Thursday in an annual White House summit that was overshadowed by Russia’s war in Ukraine and other immediate threats to the world’s short-term oil and gas supply.

Biden used the Major Economies Forum, convened virtually, to announce that the U.S. hoped to give $500 million to Brazil over the next five years to help slow the destruction of the Amazon, one of the world’s vital natural reserves soaking up the climate-damaging fumes from oil, natural gas, coal and methane. The funding would require congressional approval.

Climate leaders and scientists have sharply criticized the U.S. and many other nations, though, for responding to oil and gas shortages and greater supply concerns by ramping up oil and gas production and expansion plans, saying it is impossible to keep global warming to hoped-for limits while increasing drilling.

Biden, a Democrat, pointed to climate achievements including the United States’ record investments and initiatives in legislation passed last year, moves by the Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies to mandate cuts in tailpipe emissions from cars and trucks and other emissions cuts, and U.S. efforts at home and abroad to cap massive methane leaks from natural gas production.

“We’re willing to do the hard work to limit global warming” to the amount pledged by the U.S. and roughly 200 other nations in the 2015 Paris climate accord, Biden told global leaders of countries and agencies shown listening on a grid of screens.

“That’s what today is all about,” Biden said in his opening remarks, ahead of what were to be private consultations among leaders. “Coming together and candidly discussing how we can bridge the gap between our pledge … and our policies.”

But Biden’s climate forum was markedly more subdued than those of his first two years in office, with leaders of just seven nations — President Lula da Silva of Brazil and the heads of Argentina, Australia, Canada, Egypt, Germany and Mexico — shown on screen and listening to his remarks.

Past years’ summits have been held with greater White House fanfare.

President Barack Obama initiated the Major Economies Forum as a way to get the world’s biggest economies and polluters talking among themselves about emissions cuts.

This year’s event, however, is accompanied by oil and gas supply worries stemming from Russia’s market-disrupting invasion of Ukraine and reluctance by Saudi Arabia and other oil producers to increase their short-term pumping in response.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects the U.S. will pump a record 12.4 million barrels of crude oil a day this year and top that with 12.8 million barrels a day next year. While praising other U.S. climate efforts, climate experts especially fault Biden’s approval of the big new Willow drilling project in previously off-limits areas of Alaska, saying it will lock in increased production for decades to come.