Washington (CNN) — Vice President Kamala Harris is expected to attend a global climate summit in Dubai, according to a source familiar with the plans, following pushback over President Joe Biden skipping the opening of the gathering this week.
Harris’ expected attendance at COP28 is in line with her recent steps to ramp up public messaging on climate. In recent months, the vice president has attended climate-related events, including talking to students and young voters on an issue central to them.
CNN reached out to the vice president’s office for comment. Kirsten Allen, a spokeswoman for Harris, previously said that Harris didn’t have plans to attend the conference. Bloomberg first reported her expected plans.
But it also comes after climate activists and experts expressed frustration with Biden missing the gathering this year. Since taking office, Biden has attended the annual UN climate summit in person in 2021 and 2022.
A July Washington Post-University of Maryland poll from July found that 57% of Americans disapprove of the way Biden has handled climate policy, including 59% of voters 18-29 years old. Seventy-four percent of Democrats said they approved of how Biden had addressed the issue, but just 40% of independents and 8% of Republicans agreed. Most Americans – 71% – said they had read or heard very little about the Inflation Reduction Act, the major climate policy legislation Biden signed into law last year.
The administration’s handling of climate change reflects a larger pattern ahead of next year’s general election. Recent polls show Biden receiving low approval ratings from voters and trailing former President Donald Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, in battleground states. At the same time, the administration has struggled to promote its signature achievements in a way that resonates with voters.
When asked about the president skipping the summit, the White House has cited the attendance of top US officials, including special envoy John Kerry and White House National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi. The conference will be attended by nearly 200 countries.
Although US presidents historically haven’t attended every international climate summit, Biden skipping the conference is notable, Tom Evans, a policy adviser for international climate think tank E3G, told CNN earlier this week.
“It’s definitely a shame that he won’t be there. When he’s not part of the conversation, that shows the US that’s not fully at the table at the highest level,” Evans said, adding that the president not attending in person is a “missed opportunity” ahead of the 2024 election.
“This will be the final COP before the US election – the US election might happen during the next COP,” he told CNN.
Still, some activists and small island nations have called into question the effectiveness of the annual international climate summit process. High-profile Swedish youth activist Greta Thunberg opted to skip the summit, saying it was a space for “greenwashing” last year.
This is a breaking story and will be updated.
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