Biden cites US responsibility for climate

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US President Joe Biden has acknowledged at a UN summit that the United States and other energy-gulping developed nations bear much of the responsibility for climate change, and says actions taken this decade to contain global warming will be decisive in preventing future generations from suffering.

"None of us can escape the worst that is yet to come if we fail to seize this moment," Biden declared at the COP26 gathering on Monday.

The president treated the already visible crisis for the planet - flooding, volatile weather, droughts and wildfires - as a unique opportunity to reinvent the global economy.

Standing before world leaders gathered in in Glasgow, Scotland, he sought to portray the enormous costs of limiting emissions from coal, oil and natural gas as a chance to create jobs by transitioning to renewable energy and electric automobiles.

Yet he also apologised for former president Donald Trump's decision to leave the Paris Agreement and the role the US and other wealthy countries played in contributing to climate change.

"Those of us who are responsible for much of the deforestation and all of the problems we have so far," Biden said, have "overwhelming obligations" to the poorer nations that account for few of the emissions yet are paying a price as the planet has grown hotter.

As for Trump's action, Biden said: "I shouldn't apologise, but I do apologise for the fact the United States, the last administration, pulled out of the Paris Accords and put us sort of behind the eight ball a little bit."

His words, in seemingly impromptu comments, appeared a break from past comments of many US leaders, who either made little mention of US responsibility for the warming earth or - as Biden himself did on the eve of the climate summit - blamed China as the world's current biggest emitter of climate-wrecking coal and petroleum fumes.

Over history, scientists say, it's the United States that has pumped out the most climate-damaging pollution of any nation, as coal, diesel and gasoline powered the United States and other developed nations to wealth.

Biden, who briefly closed his eyes at one point during the speeches, used the summit to announce he planned to work with the US Congress to provide $US3 billion ($A4 billion) annually to help poorer countries and communities cope with climate damage, as developing nations increasingly are demanding of established, wealthier economies.

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