10:17 A.M. GMT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right, guys. Thank you so much for joining us on this trip. We have National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan to take a couple of questions from you.
MR. SULLIVAN: Hey, guys. How are you? So, I thought I would just start with a little bit of context for what we’re heading into here at COP26. I know that Secretary Kerry and Gina McCarthy had the chance to do a larger backgrounder, but just to take a step back: In 2015, with the Paris Accord, you got the basic framework for how the world should come together to address the climate crisis and meet the necessary targets on mitigation to keep the world within 2 degrees — and hopefully within 1.5 degrees — that that was basically the formula of Paris.
And what Paris said was that every country has a responsibility to step up but those responsibilities are common but differentiated. So, developed countries have a greater responsibility than developing countries because of their historic emissions, but no country can escape or evade a basic obligation to contribute to the solution. So, that was Paris.
COP26 in Glasgow is not about some new climate change agreement — we have the agreement; it’s the Paris Agreement — it’s about making the Paris Climate Agreement real, actually getting to the level of ambition required through action to actually hit the targets set out in Paris.
And in fact, this weekend at the G20, that key target was clarified from the formula in Paris to a commitment by all G20 countries to hit 1.5 degrees. So, now the real question is: Can we get the world aligned around the necessary action to actually achieve the goal of staying within 1.5 degrees?
When we started this year, 2021, we were nowhere close. Not even close. You had basically a couple of countries, a couple of entities that had developed the nationally determined contributions necessary to do that.
Thanks in part to the critical role of the United States and American leadership and, in particular, President Biden’s Earth Day Summit, we’ve had a real jolt of energy in this effort over the course of this year. So, we go into COP with roughly 65 percent of the world’s economy in line with the 1.5 degree commitment, with still some significant outliers. One of those significant outliers being China, who will not be represented at the leader level at COP26 and who we do believe has an obligation to step up to greater ambition as we go forward. And we’ll keep pressing on that. And there are other countries as well.
In addition to mitigation, COP26 will have a big focus on adaptation, on what it’s going to take to provide developing countries with the means to prepare themselves for dealing with the effects of climate change going forward. And the United States is coming today with a significant new initiative — this PREPARE initiative — which involves multiple times more investment and adaptation than we’ve ever done before, billions of dollars a year by 2024 — $3 billion a year by 2024.
In addition to the President closing in on the target of these massive investments at home in the Build Back Better Initiative and the infrastructure initiative he talked about in this press conference last night, that will show that the United States is actually putting its money where its mouth is, in terms of hitting its own climate commitments.
And then finally, part of Paris was a commitment by developed nations to developing nations that we would mobilize $100 billion a year in climate finance internationally. And the President, at the U.N. General Assembly, announced a doubling of the U.S. commitment, which will mean that the United States is contributing its share to hit that $100 billion figure. And we feel confident about that in 2023.
In 2022, the world is closing in on that commitment. The gap has narrowed; it’s quite small. And we believe that there are creative ways to hit the $100 billion target. So, the U.S. is stepping up to do its part. Key U.S. allies — Japan, Korea, the European Union, Canada, others — are stepping up to do their part.
And now the question is: “Will some of the remaining countries step up to do theirs?” That question, we don’t expect, will be fully answered in Glasgow because we should not look at Glasgow as the end of the road. Glasgow, from our perspective, is a key moment setting us off on a decisive decade of climate action. And if we can come out of here with the wind at our back with these enormous commitments across financing, mitigation, adaptation, we believe the pressure will build on the countries that have not yet stepped up and the world will look them — to them to do their part. That’s what we expect. That’s what we’re looking for.
The only other thing that I would add today is: The President will also have the chance to do a brief meeting with the Estonian Prime Minister. There is a number of things to talk about, from NATO and transatlantic security, to cybersecurity and 5G. But a critical reason for this is that the Estonian Prime Minister stepped up to help seal the global minimum tax deal and President Biden wants to thank her personally for that.
And then she will do — he will do a bilateral also with President Joko Widodo of Indonesia, where, coming out of the U.S.-ASEAN Summit and the East Asia Summit with Indonesia as the G20 chair next year, this is an important opportunity for him to have his first full sit-down meeting with President Widodo to talk about the full range of issues in the Indo-Pacific, as well as how to build on this year’s G20 Summit heading into next year’s G20 Summit in Indonesia.
So, let me stop there. I’m happy to take questions.
Q Thanks, Jake. Can you walk us through a little bit in more detail of what the President is expected to say in his remarks to the summit?
And then, will he have any other bilateral engagements with other leaders?
MR. SULLIVAN: So, the President will talk about what the United States is prepared to do to fulfill its obligation, including the investments we’re making, the targets we intend to hit, both with respect to 2030 and 2050. He will also talk about the progress that we have made this year and the momentum we have built. And then he will talk about the work that needs to be done.
In addition to that, he will discuss his very strong conviction that it’s a false choice between progress on climate and progress on delivering economically for working people — that, in fact, the right kind of strategy can and will deliver both. That’s what his Build Back Better framework is. That’s what his infrastructure framework is. And that’s what, for example, the deal with Europeans on steel and aluminum yesterday represented as well. So, he will speak to that critical opportunity.
Finally, he will talk about what is going to be necessary to help the rest of the world, particularly the developing world, deal with the impacts of climate change as we go forward and how the United States is committed to playing a lead role in that.
So, the speech will be a clarion call. It will be a very strong statement of his personal commitment, of our country’s commitment not just to do our part, but to help lead the world in mobilizing and catalyzing the action necessary to achieve our goals.
Q Jake, on China, how has the tension between the U.S. and China affected cooperation on climate change? And why do you think the U.S. has not been able to push China to take that stronger action that you’re hoping that it will?
MR. SULLIVAN: The thing that I find somewhat confounding about the frame of difficulties in the U.S.-China relationship — meaning, China doesn’t step up to do its part on climate — is that there’s — it’s deeply asymmetrical. Right? The United States, despite whatever difficulties we have with China, is stepping up. We’re going to do 50 to 52 percent reduction by 2030. We’re coming forward with all of our commitments. We’re filling our end of the bargain at COP.
The fact that China isn’t is not something that they can readily point to us to say is the reason. It’s on them. They are a big country with a lot of resources and a lot of capabilities, and they are perfectly well capable of living up to their responsibilities; it’s up to them to do so.
And nothing about the nature of the relationship between the U.S. and China, structurally or otherwise, impedes or stands in the way of them doing their part.
Q Jake, the mood and — kind of the mood coming out of the G20 seemed a little pessimistic, in terms of like there were hopes for more specifics in the communiqués, especially on the climate. How does that affect the start of COP26 and with the leaders kind of going in it with that mindset?
MR. SULLIVAN: Look, I think anytime you head into a summit where you’re trying to hit very high ambition, there’s a certain motivation around, “we’ve done some things, but we haven’t done enough” as a kind of mindset. That’s not a bad thing, because I do think we want the whole world to feel the pressure to step up and do more.
But my own view on this is that the G20 produced a concrete commitment on climate that if you look back over the last few years, you’d be hard pressed to find as definitive, as concrete, and as near-term — and that’s the commitment to end international financing of coal this year.
And then the other critical thing coming out of the G20, as I mentioned in my opening comments, was getting every country to sign up to 1.5. Now, just signing up to 1.5 obviously doesn’t get the job done; you actually have to take the action to make that real. But the fact of that commitment, I think, actually creates the foundation for COP then, over the course of the next several days, to generate the needed action to close the gap between that ambition and where we are today.
Q Jake, the COP26 president said that this COP is the last best hope to reach the 1.5 target. Does the President view it that way, in those historic terms? How does he see this summit?
MR. SULLIVAN: Look, I think if you are the president of a conference of this magnitude, it’s your job to get people focused on the stakes and the urgency. And so, it’s — it’s perfectly understandable that he would frame it in those terms. But it is also critical for us to recognize that the work is going to have to continue after everyone goes home from Glasgow.
I believe that this summit provides an incredibly important opportunity for us to get sufficient commitments and sufficient momentum that we are building across the course of this decisive decade. But we’re going to have to come back in ’22, ’23, ’24, ’25, ’26, ’27, ’28, ’29, and ’30 to ultimately be able to achieve what’s necessary to achieve.
So, I think we cannot afford to falter in terms of making meaningful progress and building meaningful momentum here, but this is not the end of the race. It is an important way station along a race that will continue beyond Glasgow.
Q Has it been more difficult for the President to talk about what’s in the Build Back Better plan and his infrastructure legislation without having those actually passed and signed into law?
MR. SULLIVAN: The President talks with great — honestly, with pride and with specificity world — to world leaders about all of the elements of those bills that relate to climate: hundreds of billions of dollars, the largest investment in the history of the world, as he said last night.
And what we have found over the course of this weekend is that world leaders are a sophisticated bunch. They well understand that the legislative process takes time, legislative text needs finalizing, votes need to be cast. But there is a significant expectation that this can and will happen, and it can and will happen in the near term.
And so, there’s no one out there right now saying, “Well, I guess since the — the ink’s not dry on the bill or the vote hasn’t been cast, the U.S. isn’t going to make these commitments.” The world has the expectation we will. There is excitement about that. There is energy around that. And so, I don’t think that it has stood in the way of the President being able to look the whole world in the eye and say, “The U.S. is doing its part.”
Q Jake, are there any other announcements that the President or that the U.S. in general is going to make at COP that we should have on our radar?
And if I could ask you one question unrelated to climate, what is —
MR. SULLIVAN: Yeah. Just on that —
Q Go ahead.
MR. SULLIVAN: We will — there’ll be a factsheet today and another one tomorrow with some more specific commitments, initiatives, and other things that we’ll get to you so that you’ve got the detail on them.
Q What kind of commitments?
MR. SULLIVAN: So, for example, we will lay out in detail this adaptation initiative — this PREPARE initiative which is going to be a major new Biden administration program on adaptation globally. And there are others as well, which I’ll either — we’ll get Secretary Kerry or someone else to walk through with you guys the precise details on them so you have them.
Q Okay. And then on the other topic, are you tracking and what is your level of concern about Russian troops gathering again at the border of Ukraine?
MR. SULLIVAN: We had the opportunity to consult over this past weekend with key allies and partners on the issue of Ukraine and ensuring that we’re defending Ukraine’s — or supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We’ll continue to monitor the situation closely. And I don’t have anything else to add at this point.
Q A question on Iran: When you go back to negotiations with Iran, is the United States willing to take the nuclear program in isolation, or should these talks also include its missile program, its attacks through proxies — should not be part of the negotiations?
MR. SULLIVAN: Our approach has been to try to get back on a compliance-for-compliance basis into the JCPOA, which means focusing on that set of issues and then using that as a baseline, a foundation for dealing with the full range of concerns we have about Iran’s approach, including its missile programs, including regional activities.
But the immediate priority is: restore the nuclear constraints. Because, having done that, we will be in a better position to tackle the rest of it.
Q So, if you get to those constraints, if you get back into compliance and Iran gets back into compliance, then you continue to negotiate on other issues as well, is that what you’re saying?
MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, what I’m saying is that we view this as, first — the first order of business is get back into the JCPOA on a compliance-for-compliance basis. But the very design of the JCPOA always conceived of us continuing to work hard to deal with our deep concerns about Iran’s other activities and the other elements of the threat that Iran poses. And that’s what we would intend to do on a going-forward basis.
Q And then on energy production, what — when the President had those talks at the G20, was there a discussion about coordinating the tapping of our and other countries’ petroleum reserves if OPEC doesn’t go up to the supply levels that you had kind of hoped for?
MR. SULLIVAN: As the President said last night, that we’d be prepared to announce what our additional, potential measures might be when we were ready to take them. So, I’ll leave it at that and just say we had a broad discussion about the tools available with other energy consumers and we’ll see what happens.
Q Are there tools other than that available?
MR. SULLIVAN: That is a deeply existential question. (Laughter.)
Q Jake, can you tell us any more about how the meeting with President Biden and President Erdoğan went? What was the tone? What was the mood like? And what was — how does the President feel about having to raise the issue of human rights when he’s meeting with a NATO Ally?
MR. SULLIVAN: It was constructive and direct. And it covered a full range of regional and global issues. And yes, it covered the issue of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.
And look, what the President said was, “We’re going to keep raising these issues because that’s who we are as a country, that’s who I am as a President.” And whatever friction it may cause, it will not deter us from speaking out on these issues publicly and directly raising our concerns with you.
Obviously, we believe that NATO, as an alliance, should very much be conceived of and encouraged towards a deep commitment to the democratic traditions and values that have underpinned it since the beginning. And we’ll just keep working at that. We’ll work at that with Turkey. We’ll work at that with other NATO Allies who have challenges in terms of democratic backsliding at home.
Q President Macron kind of took another verbal shot at Australia last night. How did the meeting go? Are things going good there? How do you feel like the relationship —
MR. SULLIVAN: With President Macron?
Q Yeah. How do you feel the relationship is at this point?
MR. SULLIVAN: Oh, we had a — a really first-rate meeting with President Macron on Friday. And I say “first-rate” because it was substantive, it was strategic, it was focused on aligning around a common vision not just in terms of the transatlantic relationship, but in terms of the Indo-Pacific counterterrorism — a lot of other really significant issues.
And I think the — the personal rapport between President Biden and President Macron is very good. The two men really respect each other. And more than that, they sort of riff off each other as they talk about some of these big strategic questions.
So, we’re feeling very good right now about the path forward that we have to take this oldest of our alliances and really, you know, make it work especially effectively in the — in the years ahead on a set of modern and evolving threats and challenges.
Q President Macron pretty bluntly said that he thought that Prime Minister Morrison had lied to him about the deal. We know that President Biden also said that he was misinformed about, you know, had the French been notified of the deal. Did Morrison lie to President Biden?
MR. SULLIVAN: I — I would — here is my view on this: President Biden spoke to this issue on Friday night about what had happened. He said what he said. It made headlines in a number of your publications. And I think we should look forward and not backward. So, I don’t want to get into characterizing one way or another what happened before.
I think we’ve — President Biden has addressed it. I thought he addressed it very effectively. And I’ve got nothing to add.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Thanks, everybody.
MR. SULLIVAN: Thanks, guys.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks, Jake. Thank you so much.
Q Thank you.
Q Karine, while you’re here —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, I’m here.
Q So, first, can you tell us the last time that President Biden has been tested for COVID-19?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I do have it here. Independently of Jen being tested — PCR tested yesterday — and testing positive — the President was tested as well and — a PCR test — yesterday, and he tested negative. And this is required — but this was required for entry into the UK. That’s why he was —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — it’s independently.
I can’t —
Q You said “Sunday”?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yesterday, so Sunday. Sunday. So —
Q That was a PC- —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, it was independently — he was tested as well, yesterday, but independently of Jen testing. And it was because — and he took a PCR test. And it was because we — he had — we needed to take one to enter the United — the United Kingdom.
Q So, he was tested on Sunday and tested negative?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, he tested negative on Sunday. That’s correct.
Q Karine, can I ask about the thumbs-up situation yesterday — the thumbs up at the end of the press conference yesterday — the President’s thumbs up? You issued a statement saying that he was not, in fact, addressing Senator Manchin and Sinema but the sort of situation and its — his — that he felt that the bill was going to pass overall. Did you feel the need to issue that statement because Senator Manchin and Sinema don’t — have not in fact given him a commitment on passing the framework and the final text?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, we issued that statement because there was a lot of chatter amongst all of you about wanting clarification, and we wanted to clarify it for the press. And so that’s why I put out that statement yesterday. That’s it.
And it — and one of the things that you saw from the President yesterday, besides laying out his accomplishments from G20, he — and when asked about the Build Back — his Build Back Better Framework, he was very confident to you — what you just said, Justin, in getting this passed and working closely with legislators on the Hill.
And one of the reasons — and he said this — that he put together the framework is because he knew, after spending weeks talking to legislators in both chambers and just a broad swath of our — you know, of our Democratic members, he believed this framework would get the votes that’s needed to get passed.
Q Not to put too fine of a point on it, but this is something that progressives on the Hill are really curious about. Do you believe that because it’s sort of the natural conclusion of your conversations, or do you believe it because those senators have explicitly said, “We will vote…” to you — to you — said, “We will vote for this”?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I get your question. We believe that because we’ve had those conversation with those senators and House members. He’s had, you know, long conversations with progressive members in the Oval Office in the White House very recently as a week ago, as — you know he met with Congresswoman Jayapal, I believe, a week ago today, and spent a long time — a long amount of time with her and had a very good conversation — and others, as well.
So, he believes, from the conversations that he has had — one-on-one conversations, conversations from — with my colleagues as well in the White House — that this framework fits what we can get done right now.
And one of the things we have to remember is that, as you all know, there is a — you know, the calendar is limited here. So, we want to make sure that we’re able to get things passed that are able to get passed.
Q Do you have an update on when you expect that vote to occur, Karine?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We’re going to be working really closely with the, you know, leadership in the House; the excellent Speaker, Speaker Pelosi. We’re working closely with her. I understand that they mentioned that there’ll be a vote this week, which we support, but I don’t have anything else to say on timing.
Q The House had to delay plans for a Tuesday vote because they were still negotiating on the legislative text. Would the President be supportive of efforts to reopen the framework to add paid family leave back into the legislation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Say that last part — “be open to…”?
Q Reopening the legislation — the framework to add paid family leave to the deal.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you’ve heard him say, as you’ve heard all of us say: Paid leave is incredibly important to him; it’s personal. Clearly, he put it into, to your point — into the original — into the original agenda.
Look, this is something that he’s going to continue to fight for. And like I said, he wanted to make sure he put together a framework, in this short amount of time that we have to get things passed, that he knew that he can get votes from members of the House and members — clearly, members of the Senate. And so that’s why he put this into a framework.
As far as paid leave, we’re going to continue to fight for it. We’re going to continue to do everything that we can, because, like I said, the President believes — this is personal to him and incredibly important.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And I’m not going to negotiate or say much more. I’d just say that we’re going to continue to fight for it. It doesn’t end here.
Q The Supreme Court is hearing a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade today. Does the administration have plans for the possibility that Roe v. Wade could get reversed in the days ahead?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The President has been very clear about where he stands on abortion rights. He believes that a woman has the right to choose. It is their constitutional right. And he is doing an all-of-government approach to make sure that, you know, we protect the women’s — women’s rights and see what else we can do. And so — we’ve talked about that in the past.
I won’t say anything more about what the SCOTUS is doing. Anything — anything, you know, that has to do legally, I’ll just refer you to Department of Justice.
Q What would a loss in Virginia on Tuesday say about the first nine months of Joe Biden’s presidency?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, as you know, the President supports former Governor McAuliffe. He — you know, he campaigned with him as recently as last week. The Vice President was there on Friday. He’s endorsed former Governor McAuliffe.
I’m not going to get into speculation on how this race is going to turn out or anything specific like that; I can’t do that from here. And anything politically that you want to ask, I’ll forward you to the campaign or the DNC directly.
Q What level of engagement has President Biden had during this trip on his legislation, the negotiations back at home? Has he spoken with Senators Manchin, Sinema, Sanders? You touched on, I think, a conversation with a House member before. Can you detail a little bit about the level of engagement he’s had?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have any calls or particular — particular conversation to share. But as you can imagine, we have our White House staff — you know, Louisa Terrell, Brian Deese, former Ambassador Susan Rice — who are all back in D.C., and they’re doing everything that they can to continue to have a conversation with members of the House and staff and making sure that we deliver — we deliver this for the American public.
I don’t have anything — like I said, I don’t have anything specific about the President’s engagement in the last couple of days.
Q But generally, though, beyond the specific names, has he been making calls and holding meetings about this legislation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The President has always been engaged pretty regularly with members and — to have a conversation about getting this done for the American people. I just don’t have any specifics.
Q Karine, is — are there any other implications for White House staff from Jen’s COVID diagnosis or, I should say, the fact that she got COVID? Has that impacted anyone else that she was close to in the last week?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, the answer is: No, it has not. But let me just — I want to say a couple of things.
You know, we wish Jen, our fearless leader, a speedy recovery. And she is — she is in all of our thoughts — the entire press team’s.
And so, I just want to echo her statement, which is: Thanks to the vaccine, fortunately, her symptoms are mild. And we cannot wait to have her back — to have all of us back together safely — and are sending the very best to Jen and her family.
Q How concerned are you guys about all these American Airlines flight cancellations? Are you talking to the airlines? What’s going on there?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I heard about the report. It’s really unfortunate. It sounds like it’s due to weather and also, kind of, the — kind of, the labor shortage due to COVID — the pandemic — the impact of the pandemic.
I don’t have any more to say about that. I’ll — I’ll send you to American Airlines. I don’t have anything else to read out.
Q All right. But we’re seeing a lot of shortages both in goods and now in services. So, is this kind of the trickle-down effect?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, what I said is: What we’re seeing, it is not — it is due to coming out of the pandemic — the labor shortage coming out of the pandemic and then dealing with that, but it’s not due to vaccine mandates or requirements. It’s not the same, from what we’re seeing.
10:47 A.M. GMT