Harris stormed to Dubai to tackle climate change and war. Everyone bears political risks at home

(Rafiq Maqbool/Associated Press)

Harris stormed to Dubai to tackle climate change and war. Everyone bears political risks at home



Dec. 3, 2023

In President Biden’s place, Vice President Kamala Harris flew to the Middle East to tackle a pair of challenges that have bedeviled the White Houses for decades: climate change and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Both carry the risk of a political backlash in next year’s presidential elections



She spent just 24 hours on the ground in Dubai, less time than it took to get to the United Arab Emirates and then back to Washington.

When it was announced at the UN Climate Conference that Her Excellency Kamala Harris was taking the stage for remarks on Saturday, she wasn’t even in the room.

Harris’ seat remained vacant as world leaders gathered for the panel discussion. When she did show up, she gave a short speech and then quickly ran off, only to be called back for a group photo.

Harris was delayed because she had been on the phone with the Emir of Qatar about the war between Israel and Hamas. And after the climate event, she rushed to hold more meetings with Arab leaders as Israeli bombing resumed in Gaza after a temporary ceasefire.

The awkward double-booking during Harris’ hastily arranged trip to Dubai illustrates a series of difficult and sometimes potentially contradictory policy and political crosscurrents. The Biden administration with its diverse coalition of voters is trying to navigate these crosscurrents just as the 2024 presidential race is heating up.

Speaking to reporters after her day of diplomacy, Harris’ prepared remarks sidestepped the U.S. pledge to donate another $3 billion to a climate fund, a development she cited in her speech at the conference. In front of the media, she focused on steps to resolve the war and prepare for what would come next.

We all want this conflict to end as quickly as possible and to guarantee the security of Israel and the Palestinian people, Harris said. We must accelerate efforts to build a lasting peace and that starts with planning what happens the day after the fighting ends.

Climate and conflict are issues that will require a balancing act at home as a potential Biden rematch with former Republican President Trump unfolds.

The Democratic administration is betting much of the future of the U.S. economy on renewable energy, but voters are frustrated by gasoline prices that are higher than when Biden took office. This also applies to the war that started on October 1. 7 has exposed a rift


between Democrats over Washington’s support for Israel and the suffering of Palestinian civilians.

As the 81-year-old Biden seeks a second term, the 59-year-old Harris has taken on a bigger role promoting his campaign among younger voters.

During a months-long lecture tour of campuses across the country, the vice president spoke at every stop about the existential threat of climate change, after which audience members frequently expressed concern that the government and the rest of the world are not doing enough.

In Dubai, Harris said it is our duty and obligation to do more to shift the world away from fossil fuels and limit the rise in global average temperatures. She said the US would contribute $3 billion to a global fund aimed at helping developing countries better cope with climate change, joining more than 90 countries in pledging to double energy efficiency and increase renewable capacity energy to triple by 2030.

JL Andrepont, a senior policy analyst at the environmental group 350.org, said the funding commitment was a cautious but hopeful sign of the power of public pressure.

But Harris did not call for a phase-out of fossil fuels, which many environmental groups want to halt the emissions that cause climate change.

We will continue to celebrate the global victories that support equitably produced and deployed renewable energy for all, and we will not stop advocating for a rapid, complete phase-out of all fossil fuels, including oil and gas, Andrepont said.

There is a similar level of tension among Democratic supporters over the war between Israel and Hamas.

Polling from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 50% of Democrats approve of a near-divisive approach to Biden’s handling of the war, while 46% disapprove.

Harris reaffirmed the administration’s position that Israel must be able to defend itself. Still, after hearing from Arab leaders, her words conveyed some frustration at the scale of Israel’s response.

She described the extent of civilian suffering as “devastating” and said Israel must do more to protect the lives of Palestinians not involved in the fighting. Biden has previously stated that the US relationship with Israel was rock-solid, and his administration is demanding more than $14 billion. in support of Israel’s war efforts.

Harris also emphasized the importance of a reconstruction process for homes and hospitals in the Gaza region.

Amber Sherman, chair of the Black Caucus of the Young Democrats of America, said Harris’ comments were encouraging. Sherman previously had one statement about Xformerly Twitter, said Palestinians were rising up against the Israeli government’s occupation, just as black Americans had fought against slavery and white supremacy.

It’s important that people call out what’s happening in Palestine, Sherman said. We want Gaza to be rebuilt and it is important that she raised that.

Still, Harris’ statements were not entirely reassuring to some critics of the administration’s support for Israel.

President Biden and his administration must put their declaration into action, said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “We want the siege to be lifted.”

In all, the vice president spent just 24 hours on the ground in Dubai, less time than the roughly 15 hours it took to get there and back from Washington.


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