Known to favor a back-slap and handshake style, President Biden will be limited to a computer screen as he seeks to restore American credibility on the world stage while also convincing fellow leaders to make bold pledges to stave off global warming.
Officials said the logistics of a virtual summit made pull-asides or individual bilateral meetings difficult to organize, and Biden has found previous virtual meetings with foreign leaders somewhat stilted.
This week's meeting is the largest virtual summit of world leaders to be convened over the past pandemic-altered year.
When he begins traveling abroad, potentially as soon as June, Biden is expected to continue pressing on climate issues leading up to a major summit in Scotland in November.
The urgency of the matter was underscored this week in a new report from the International Energy Agency, which estimated carbon emissions from energy use are on track to spike by 1.5 billion tons in 2021 as heavy coal consumption in Asia – China, in particular – outweigh rapid growth in renewable sources.
That would be the second largest annual increase in energy-related emissions in history.