In Dubai, Harris deals with 2 issues important to young voters: Climate and Gaza

Kamala Harris speaks from a podium

Vice President Harris speaks to leaders at the United Nations climate summit in Dubai on Dec. 2, 2023. (Giuseppe Cacace/AFP via Getty Images)

DUBAI — Vice President Harris on Saturday told leaders gathered at a United Nations summit that they should take a cue from young activists and do more to curb climate change.

“They understand the urgency of this moment, and they fight with conviction, knowing we still have time to make a difference. So let us all share in their sense of urgency and their optimism. Let us all lead then with ambition and conviction,” Harris told the COP28 summit.

It was one of several explicit nods Harris made to young voters — a key segment of support for the Biden-Harris ticket in 2020 — who have expressed disappointment with the administration’s record leading up to the 2024 presidential election.

Climate is one of two issues where Harris is seeking to address concerns of young voters on this trip. The other is U.S. support for Israel as it fights Hamas in Gaza after the Oct. 7 attacks. Polls show young voters are more likely than older voters to sympathize with Palestinians than Israel, and think Israel’s response in Gaza has gone too far.

Harris announced a new $3 billion pledge to help developing nations on climate

Leading up to the election, now less than a year away, Harris has been dispatched to speak to college campuses to try to get young voters excited about President Biden’s track record.

Young voters were a key bloc of support for the Biden-Harris ticket in the 2020 election, but their enthusiasm has since sagged. Climate is a key concern for many younger voters. An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll from this summer found that nearly 6 in 10 millennial and Gen Z Americans believe addressing climate change should be a priority even at the risk of slowing economic growth.

Polling shows approval for Biden’s handling of climate change has declined in spite of the investments in his landmark Inflation Reduction Act, particularly with young voters. The president has faced backlash over a decision earlier this year to approve a large drilling project known as Willow on federal land in Alaska, and some young voters would like to see Biden declare a climate emergency to give him more power to tackle the issue.

Harris’ trip to Dubai was hastily organized after the White House said President Biden would not attend the summit.

On climate, Harris pointed to spending that the Biden administration has already committed, and rolled out a new $3 billion pledge to the UN’s Green Climate Fund to help developing nations deal with the effects of climate change. The pledge will require funding from Congress, which is not easy to come by.

A White House official told reporters that the pressure from young voters on climate can be helpful because it helps push the government to make progress on the issue.

Harris met with regional leaders about Gaza

Harris was in Dubai as fighting in Gaza resumed after a five-day temporary truce collapsed. The White House has been working with regional leaders to try to restore the pause in fighting with an eye to getting more hostages out of Gaza and more humanitarian aid into the territory.

Harris met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, King Abdullah of Jordan and UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed on the sidelines of the COP28 meeting — and spoke by phone to Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. Officials said she called the emir after hearing that talks had broken down about a renewed pause in fighting.

White House officials said Harris was focused on talking about issues like governance and rebuilding Gaza after the fighting ends.

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