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Biden is set to meet with world leaders for a climate forum.



Credit…Angus Mordant/Reuters

President Biden is set to host a climate change summit Friday morning that is expected to draw pledges from the United States, Europe and a number of countries to slash their use of methane, a potent planet-warming greenhouse gas, according to environmental groups.

The White House meeting, which is called the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, will be held virtually starting at 8:30 a.m. It comes less than two months before a pivotal United Nations conference in Glasgow where nearly 200 nations are expected to announce more ambitious emissions-cutting targets than they had previously set in order to keep the world from overheating.

Mr. Biden sent a letter to leaders of some of the top-polluting nations this month inviting them to the forum and stressing that it was incumbent upon the world’s biggest economic powers to take the lead in keeping global temperatures from rising to catastrophic levels. Scientists have set that guardrail at below 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels.

“As leaders of the world’s major economies, we must ensure that our efforts during this critical decade are swift and bold enough to keep the goal of holding temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach,” Mr. Biden wrote in a letter to the president of Argentina that was posted on an Argentine government website.

The United States under Mr. Biden has pledged to cut emissions 50 to 52 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. Yet legislation to make that promise a reality faces trouble in Congress. Other major emitters like China and India have yet to put forward new targets.

In addition to prodding nations to set tough new targets, Mr. Biden will also invite countries to join a global pledge of cutting methane 30 percent by 2030. Methane, which is the main component of natural gas, is the second most powerful greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide.

Environmental advocates said they were optimistic a number of countries would agree to that benchmark, calling it a potentially significant step in curbing climate change. While methane has a shorter lifetime in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, it is, per unit, more than 20 times as potent at warming the planet.

“Slashing methane emissions is the most important action countries can take to slow global warming in the next few decades,” said Nathaniel Keohane, the president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

The United States is also likely to face pressure at the forum to boost its funding to help developing countries pivot to cleaner energy and cope with the consequences of climate change. In April, the Biden administration pledged to deliver $5.7 billion annually by 2024.

Jake Schmidt, a senior strategic director for international climate at the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, noted that the European Union contributed more than $25 billion annually to help the world’s poorer nations address climate change. He called on Mr. Biden to allocate at least $12 billion annually by 2024 ahead of the Glasgow summit.

“The U.S. needs to be bolder on climate finance if we are going to have a chance of success,” Mr. Schmidt said.

Under the Obama administration, the Major Economies Forum typically drew the world’s largest emitters, including the European Union, China, India and Australia, as well as a smattering of other nations that have been pivotal in the global negotiations.

As of late Thursday night, the White House declined to say which countries had accepted Mr. Biden’s invitation.

Credit…Saul Martinez for The New York Times

The Food and Drug Administration’s independent panel of vaccine advisers is set to meet Friday to discuss the case for booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, and to vote on whether the agency should approve additional doses for people 16 and older.

The meeting and vote, which could significantly influence federal booster policy, come amid a fraught debate within the Biden administration about whether booster shots are needed now, and for whom. If the discussion mirrors the acrimony in the administration, the expert committee may end up divided, complicating the F.D.A.’s decision.

The F.D.A. is not obligated to follow the advice of the committee, but often does. The panel’s meetings earlier in the pandemic to consider vaccine authorizations were mostly agreeable, ending in decisive votes in favor of the F.D.A.’s presumed position.

Top federal health officials, including Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser, have argued for weeks that immunity against infection is waning in fully vaccinated people, and that there are hints of diminished protection against more severe forms of Covid-19.

Eight of those officials in August signed a policy statement saying that boosters would be needed and that the administration was prepared to deliver them for adults as early as the week of Sept. 20, a decision some public health experts said was premature. But the White House has already been forced to delay offering boosters to recipients of the Moderna vaccine, and for now it is planning third shots only for those who received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine if the F.D.A. signs off.

There has been fierce resistance to boosters from some federal career scientists and many vaccine experts outside the government. Two key F.D.A. regulators wrote in The Lancet this week that there is no evidence additional shots are needed yet for the general population, assessing data from dozens of studies. One of them, Marion Gruber, who directs the F.D.A.’s vaccines office, is scheduled to speak at the Friday meeting.

Vaccination remains powerfully protective against severe illness and hospitalization because of Covid-19 in the vast majority of people in all of the studies published so far, experts say. But the vaccines do seem less potent against infection in people of all ages, particularly those exposed to the highly contagious Delta variant.

The World Health Organization has asked world leaders to refrain from rolling out boosters at least until the end of the year, with the goal of immunizing 40 percent of the global population first. But some high-income countries have already begun offering boosters to their residents, and others may follow their lead.

The F.D.A. panel — the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee — is composed of independent scientific experts, infectious disease doctors and statisticians, many of whom participated in earlier meetings about coronavirus vaccines.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time and conclude in the late afternoon. (You can watch it here.) A “no” vote on Pfizer’s application could lengthen the discussion and possibly prompt a different vote, such as on whether to recommend clearing the booster for a more limited group.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s own vaccine advisory panel is set to meet next week, and could make recommendations on how the extra doses, if cleared by the F.D.A., should be used.

Dr. Sara Oliver, a C.D.C. official, is set to present to the F.D.A. committee on Friday, as is Jonathan Sterne, a British statistician who was one of the authors of the Lancet article. Afterward, Israeli officials will present 42 slides on what they describe as clear signs that protection against Covid-19 is declining markedly in fully vaccinated people. Officials from Pfizer will also present their case for booster shots.

As administration officials argue about the need for the shots, many Americans are taking the matter into their own hands, seeking out booster doses before federal clearance.

Credit…Jamie Mccarthy/Getty Images

After the rapper Nicki Minaj questioned the efficacy of the Covid-19 vaccine in a Twitter post this week, the White House confirmed on Wednesday that it had offered her a call with a doctor to answer questions about the safety of the vaccine.

Ms. Minaj’s comments drew widespread attention after she said she would not attend the Met Gala on Monday because she had yet to receive the vaccine, which was required for attendees.

“As we have with others, we offered a call with Nicki Minaj and one of our doctors to answer questions she has about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine,” a White House official said in a statement on Wednesday night.

Ms. Minaj appeared to believe that she was going to visit the White House. She said on Twitter on Wednesday that she would “be dressed in all pink like Legally Blonde so they know I mean business.”

“I’ll ask questions on behalf of the ppl who have been made fun of for simply being human,” she added.

Asked about the possibility of dialogue between Ms. Minaj and the White House, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters on Thursday that officials had proposed “a very early stage call” that amounted to an “offer to have a conversation” about the safety of the vaccine.

“If we believed that everybody who had skepticism about the vaccine wasn’t someone we should engage with or talk to, we wouldn’t have made the progress we’ve made,” Ms. Psaki said.

Ms. Psaki said she was unsure whether the call would take place.

On Monday, Ms. Minaj asserted that her cousin’s friend in Trinidad and Tobago “became impotent” after receiving the vaccine, a claim that nation’s minister of health, Terrence Deyalsingh, rejected.

“There has been no such reported either side effect or adverse event,” he said in a news conference online. “And what was sad about this is that it wasted our time yesterday, trying to track down, because we take all these claims seriously, whether it’s on social media or mainstream media.”

Credit…Ludovic Marin/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The United States acknowledged on Thursday that it only gave France a few hours’ notice of its deal to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines, a move that French officials have denounced as a major betrayal by one of its closest allies.

France had been trying to strike its own, multibillion dollar deal with Australia, and French officials said that the new agreement, which Mr. Biden announced at the White House on Wednesday with the leaders of Australia and Britain joining virtually, was an affront.

President Biden’s national security adviser informed France on Wednesday morning that the United States had reached the deal with Australia, revealing the plan to the top French diplomat in Washington on the same day that Mr. Biden made it public, a senior U.S. official said Thursday. The person asked for anonymity to talk about diplomatic discussions.

The degree of French anger recalled the acrimony between Paris and Washington in 2003 over the Iraq war and involved language not seen since then. “This is not done between allies,” Jean-Yves Le Drian, the foreign minister, said in an interview with Franceinfo radio, calling the deal a “unilateral, brutal, unpredictable decision.”

French officials described the exclusion of France, a NATO member, from the new British-Australian-U.S. military partnership as a moment that will deepen an already widening rift between longstanding allies. President Emmanuel Macron has already said he intends to pursue French “strategic autonomy” from the United States.

But even as American officials scrambled to respond to the French anger, they dismissed the notion of a serious rift. Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters that the United States informed the French before the president’s announcement but did not have an obligation to include the country in their arrangement with Australia and Britain.

“This is not the only global engagement or global cooperative partnership the United States has in the world,” she said. She added that the United States and France will continue to be partners in a number of other ways, noting that “the French are a member of the G-7.”

Still, the lack of consultation — and the last-minute revelation — has infuriated French officials in Washington, who on Thursday angrily canceled a gala at their Washington embassy to protest what they called a rash and sudden policy decision that resembled those of former President Donald J. Trump.

Asked what Mr. Biden thinks about being compared to Mr. Trump, Ms. Psaki shot back: “The president doesn’t think about it much.”

The gala was to commemorate the “240th Anniversary of the Battle of the Capes,” celebrating the French navy’s help in a 1781 battle during America’s fight for independence.

Philippe Étienne, the French ambassador to the United States and the host of the party, said on Thursday that he learned about the deal from news reports, followed by a call from Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser to Mr. Biden.

A senior American official said that the Biden administration had made efforts to inform the French government about the president’s announcement earlier Wednesday morning, but had been unable to schedule the discussions with their French counterparts before the news reports appeared online.

The indignation from Mr. Étienne and Mr. Le Drian reflected the fact that France had its own deal with Australia, concluded in 2016, for conventional, less technologically sophisticated submarines. That $66 billion deal is now defunct, but a harsh legal battle over the contract appears inevitable.

“A knife in the back,” Mr. Le Drian said of the Australian decision, noting that Australia was rejecting a deal for a strategic partnership that involved “a lot of technological transfers and a contract for a 50-year period.”

French officials in Washington accused top American officials of hiding information about the deal despite repeated attempts by French diplomats, who suspected that something was in the works, to learn more.

Mr. Étienne, one of France’s most experienced diplomats, acknowledged in an interview on Thursday that there had been discussions with the Australians over the rising price tag of the submarines that France was supposed to deliver to Australia — which were not nuclear-powered, even though France has its own fleet of nuclear-powered submarines.

In early summer, the French government had declined to sign documents committing to the next phase of the deal — apparently because of the pricing disputes. But Mr. Étienne said the deal was about more than just a defense contract.

“We have assets in this region,” he said of France, noting that it has conducted missions in the Pacific, and strategic plans to increase France’s presence. “We take it very seriously.” He added: “It was not only a commercial contract.” He called it “an essential part of our overall Indo-Pacific strategy.”

Ms. Psaki said French “leadership up and down the ranks will continue to be important partners to the United States,” and she suggested that the work of the two countries to seek security in the Pacific would not be compromised because of tensions around the submarine deal with Australia.

“We cooperate closely with France,” she said. “As the President said yesterday, we have a range of shared priorities in the Indo-Pacific, and that will certainly continue. We don’t see this, from our end, as a regional divide.”

Zolan Kanno-Youngs and David E. Sanger contributed reporting.

Credit…John Taggart for The New York Times

The House Oversight Committee has widened its probe into the oil and gas industry’s role in spreading disinformation about the role of fossil fuels in causing global warming, calling on top executives from Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP and Royal Dutch Shell, as well as the lobby groups American Petroleum Institute and the United States Chamber of Commerce, to testify before Congress next month.

In letters sent to the industry executives Thursday morning, the committee also requested information, including internal documents and emails on climate policy going back to 2015, related to the companies’ and groups’ efforts to undermine climate policy.

“We are deeply concerned that the fossil fuel industry has reaped massive profits for decades while contributing to climate change that is devastating American communities, costing taxpayers billions of dollars, and ravaging the natural world,” read the letter to Darren Woods, the Exxon chief executive.

“We are also concerned that to protect those profits, the industry has reportedly led a coordinated effort to spread disinformation to mislead the public and prevent crucial action to address climate change.”

The letters were sent to the companies and groups Thursday morning, according to the committee. The recipients didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment early Thursday.

The inquiry — modeled on the tobacco hearings of the 1990s, which paved the way for far tougher nicotine regulations — sets up a showdown between progressive Democrats and an industry that faces increasing scrutiny. A wave of lawsuits filed by cities and states across the country has accused oil and gas companies of engaging in decades-long, multimillion-dollar campaigns to downplay warnings from their own scientists about the effects of burning fossil fuels on the climate.

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