There are no majorClimate legislation is now in place and international allies are still learning after four years of Donald Trump’s bruising years. Joe Biden faces a major challenge to reassert American credibility as he heads to crucial UN climate talks in Scotland.
The US president, who has vowed to tackle a climate crisis he has described as an “existential threat” to civilization, will be welcomed to the COP26 talks with a sense of relief following the decisions of his predecessor, who pulled his country out of the landmark Paris climate agreement and derided climate science as “bullshit.”
But Biden, who departed to Europe on Thursday and arrived in Rome on Friday morning for a G20 summit, will head to Glasgow with his domestic climate agenda whittled away by a recalcitrant Congress and a barrage of criticism from climate activists who claim Biden’s actions have yet to match his words.
This disconnect has disturbed delegates who want to see a reliable American partner emerge during the Trump era. amid increasingly dire warnings from scientists that “irreversible” heatwaves, floods, crop failures and other effects are being locked in by governments’ sluggish response to global heating.
“The US is still the world’s largest economy, other nations pay attention to it, and we’ve never had a president more committed to climate action,” said Alice Hill, who was a climate adviser to Barack Obama. “But there is skepticism being expressed by other countries. They witnessed the dramatic change from Obama to Trump, and they worry that we will do it again. A lack of consistency is the issue.”
Laurence Tubiana, a French diplomat who was a key architect of the Paris agreement, said that Biden had put climate “at the top of his agenda” and that US diplomacy has helped eke some progress from countries such as Saudi Arabia, South Africa and India.
But she added the US had a “historical climate credibility problem” and that other leaders fret about its domestic political dysfunction and long-term commitment.
“We do worry, because it has happened before and could happen again,” she said. “The US is the world’s largest historical emitter and never passed a significant climate bill. [Biden] has still got a long way to go to make up for Trump’s lost years.”
Biden has brought a dozen of his cabinet members with him to Glasgow in a show American soft power. Here, delegates representing nearly 200 countries will meet to discuss an agreement that aims to avoid a disastrous 1.5 degrees Celsius rise in global heat, which is the key objective of Paris’ Paris deal. But perhaps the most consequential figure to the American effort, rivaling the president himself, is remaining at home—the West Virginia senator Joe Manchin.
Manchin, a centrist Democrat is a prominent figure at the talks after he obstructed the centerpiece of a landmark reconciliation law that would slash US carbon emissions. The White House hopes that the bill, which would have been the first major climate legislation in the United States, will convince other leaders to increase their efforts in Glasgow. climate breakdown.
Delegates to COP26 have realized how Biden requires the vote of Manchin. who has close ties to the fossil fuel industry, to pass his agenda and help determine the future livability of places far from the West Virginia senator’s home state.
“Bangladeshis probably know more about American politics than the average American does, people know about Joe Manchin,” said Saleemul Haq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, based in Bangladesh, which faces looming devastation from flooding. “Joe Manchin is in the pocket of the fossil-fuel industry and is trying to cut everything the coal lobby doesn’t want.
“Biden’s agenda is stuck in Congress with his own senators and he hasn’t delivered anything near what the United States should deliver. It’s just words. His actions are woefully inadequate.”
Biden has admitted that “the prestige of the United States is on the line” over the reconciliation bill, according to Democrats who met with the president, but publicly he has remained upbeat. When John Kerry, Biden’s climate envoy, said that the failure to secure the legislation would be like “President Trump pulling out of the Paris agreement, again”, Biden gently rebuked him, saying that Kerry had indulged in “hyperbole”.
“In every single day of this administration we’ve been driving forward a whole of government approach that sets us up to go into this climate conference with an incredible deal of momentum,” said an administration official.
The White House has pointed to the rejoining of the Paris accords, the resurrection of several environmental rules axed by Trump and what it is calling the “largest effort to combat climate change in American history” with the reconciliation bill, which is still set to funnel hundreds of billions of dollars in support for solar and wind energy and electric vehicles.
Progressives argue that the Biden administration did little to curb fossil fuels, including allowing controversial oil projects to proceed, such as the Dakota Access pipeline and Line 3 pipeline. The administration took action just one week after the conclusion of COP26. will auction off80m acres of the Gulf of Mexico are available for oil and gas drilling. This area is larger than the United Kingdom.
“The president is doing so much, but he is simply not doing everything he can to deliver climate justice and save lives—and we need him to now,” said Cori Bush, a progressive Democratic congresswoman who has visited the site of the Line 3 construction in Minnesota.
Protests have erupted at the White House, and several young climate activists are staging a hunger strike in order to demand more from Biden.
“President Biden started very strongly by rejoining the Paris agreement but it’s been a frustrating past few months, things have slowed down,” said Jade Begay, a climate activist who is part of a White House advisory council. “Joe Manchin is holding hostage our survival on planet Earth for his own political career and people are really questioning if Biden will stick to his promises.”
The United States has declined to set a date for the end of the coal sector’s life, unlike other countries like the United Kingdom or Germany. This position runs contrary to a key objective of the British government as COP26 hosts, with Alok Sharma, the conference’s president, pledging the talks will help “consign coal to history”.
Asked by the Guardian about the US’s stance on coal, Sharma said progress on the issue has been slow until now but “we want to see what is going to be possible” at the Glasgow summit. “I welcome the fact we now have an administration in the United States that is very focused on taking climate action and supporting the international effort,” he said.
Sharma added: “It is ultimately on world leaders to deliver. It is world leaders who signed up to the Paris agreement and … if I can put it like this, it is on them to collectively deliver at Cop.”