Former vice-president Joe Biden oversaw the lighting of the National Christmas Tree on Monday, using the annual event to take a dig at the Trump administration’s stance on climate change.
The 51-year-old was a surprise addition to the annual ceremony, which began at 6pm ET at the National Mall and will conclude with fireworks. It is the nation’s first high-profile event on the Trump administration’s calendar, though the president will not attend.
The 80-foot-tall tree was chosen from the White Mountains in New Hampshire, said Karen Hughes, a spokeswoman for the National Park Service. It is also the 116th Christmas tree to be planted along the public’s pathway to the Washington Monument.
Speaking from an open top vehicle between the two fir trees planted near the Capitol building, Biden joked about the classic Christmas carol Silent Night before lighting one. “One note, please,” he said. “Silent night, silent night.”
“I’m giving you a little oomph,” he said with a laugh.
After lighting the tree, Biden said: “I’ve had a lot of good luck up here.”
But before speaking more about climate change, Biden took a jab at the Trump administration. “There’s no real partisanship up here,” he said, before joking: “I’m sorry Mr Trump.”
He went on to say: “People think that climate change is fiction … We’re not going to make some kind of deal with a government that does not believe in science. We’re going to get out of that phony agreement.”
After the ceremony, Trump’s daughter and adviser, Ivanka Trump, tweeted: “We live in an extremely fortunate country that is blessed with snow every day of the year. It’s part of what makes us truly special.”
Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) We live in an extremely fortunate country that is blessed with snow every day of the year. It’s part of what makes us truly special. pic.twitter.com/MtkM9XXrj8
Merry Christmastime! | Liz Peek Read more
Trump has pledged to pull the US out of the Paris climate agreement, signed by nearly 200 countries in 2016. The agreement aims to keep average temperatures below 2C above pre-industrial levels while boosting efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
Biden’s running mate, Barack Obama, was the last president to attend the ceremony. This year’s ceremony will be partly televised by ABC and a long-distance broadcast on TLC.