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Biden Reasserts American Leadership, and His Own

Biden Reasserts American Leadership, and His Own

GLASGOW — President Biden’s major goal for his second foreign trip since taking office was to reassert America’s ability to lead the world on climate change before it is too late. He also wanted Joe Biden to be reaffirmed.

Biden landed in Rome on Friday to attend the Group of 20 meeting and then traveled to Glasgow for climate summit. He played the role of a traveling agent, reveling in the backslapping and personal politics that make him a strong negotiator, which he believes can translate into substantive deals.

“It never ceases to amaze me when you’re looking at someone straight in the eye when you’re trying to get something done,” Mr. Biden saidIn Rome, at a news conference. “They know me. They know me. We can get things done together.”

On Tuesday night, Mr. Biden brought some wins back to Washington. a new global minimum taxCompanies, as well as climate agreement to reduce methane emissions — a deal he said was “the foundational commitment” of his administration — and deforestation. However, if these deals were important, they were mostly finalized before his trip.

Confronted with a lack of consensus among world leaders on how to move forward globally, and with his climate agenda hanging in the balance in Congress at home, Mr. Biden’s time in Glasgow laid bare the reality that the personal style he prefers has not yet helped him close the gulf between his ambition and what he has been able to achieve.

“He enjoys the personal side of personal diplomacy,” Richard Haass is a former top State Department and national security official, who is now the Council on Foreign Relations’ president. “My own view is he exaggerates its impact. All the charm in the universe is not going to get Brazil, Australia, China, or Russia around on the rain forests or coal.

“Diplomacy will only get him so far.”

In Glasgow, China and Russia, two of the world’s largest producers of greenhouse gas emissions, sent negotiating teams to the conference, known as COP, but not their leaders. Xi Jinping, Chinese President sent only a written statement, promising that his country “will continue to prioritize ecological conservation and pursue a green and low-carbon path to development.”

Many other heads of states made opening statements about keeping the climate goals in common, while offering competing ideas for how to do this.

“There’s simply no consensus,” Mr. Haass added, “and the United States cannot pound the table and insist on one.”

At a farewell news conference, Mr. Biden, again seeking to assert American leadership, said that he thought it was a “big mistake” for China not to show up at the conference. “They’ve lost their ability to influence people around the world, and people here at COP,” Mr. Biden said.

He suggested he was open to playing a long game when it comes to persuading China to come to the table: He said that he and Mr. Xi had at least a nascent relationship from his time as vice president, and said they’ve spoken “at least five or six hours” by telephone since January.

He was nevertheless optimistic about the potential for democracies working together. Much of his time in Glasgow was spent by Mr. Biden telegraphing that he is using all the power he has to restore the environmental regulations that were lost during the Trump era.

“We’re all on the same team with essentially the same issues,” he said to allies, including Boris Johnson, Britain’s prime minister, and Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, during a meeting on a U.S.-sponsored global infrastructure initiative. “Democracy is still the best way for delivering results.”

However, sometimes the limits of these results can be quite obvious: Organisers displayed this at a meeting on the new global pact that will limit methane emissions a mapShowing the 90 countries that have signed the accord in blue. Yet several of the world’s major emitters, including China, Russia and India, appeared as vast white spaces, since they had not signed on.

Mr. Biden’s strategy was to treat the absence of Mr. Xi and another rival, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, as an opportunity to prove that the world’s democracies can deliver. Earlier in the trip, his national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, sought to ratchet up the pressure on China, telling reporters on Air Force One en route to Glasgow that China had “an obligation to step up to greater ambition as we go forward.”

Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for the Chinese ministry, quickly responded, demanding more from the United States to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and support poorer countries most affected by global warming.

“In particular, the climate policies of the United States, a major historical emitter, have constantly flipped and flopped and gone backward, and its own emissions have reached a peak and begun to decline only in recent years,” Mr. Wang said.

The relationship with China is the most important for the future, despite all the talk. Although Mr. Biden, Mr. Xi have not seen each other in person since Mr. Biden’s time in office, they are expected to meet soon. hold a virtual meetingOfficials said that they could help the men establish ties later in the year.

The summit will continue here until Nov. 12, and Mr. Biden will be leaving behind a delegation headed by John Kerry who helped secure the summit. Paris climate agreement in 2015 as secretary of state and now serves as the administration’s climate envoy. Mr. Kerry spoke Tuesday. he expected new financial commitmentsto fulfill a long-delayed promise that $100 billion a year would be provided in aid to developing nations to adapt to global climate change. It was unclear whether every country would honor its promises.

While facing dreary approval ratings at home, Mr. Biden seemed confident that the same measured approach he used abroad would eventually result in the passage two key bills back in Washington: a $1.85 billion social safety net that includes provisions for clean electricity and a $1 trillion infrastructure bill.

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Representative Ro Khanna, a California Democrat who has been working with the president to refashion his climate agenda, said in an interview that Mr. Biden told him ahead of his trip to Europe that “American prestige” was on the line.

The president, Mr. Khanna said, told him that “when he meets with foreign leaders, they tout the benefits of autocracy and authoritarianism. He wants to be able to show that democracies can govern and do big things, and do big things with the appropriate speed.”

Biden wants to be recognized as a global leader in climate policy collective action. That’s a drastically different tack than the approach taken by the Trump administration, which rolled back more than 100 environmental protection rules and, some experts argue, accelerated the effects of climate change.

“The first thing to do is to stop the bleeding,” said Leah StokesAssociate Professor at The University of California, Santa BarbaraThe climate and environment specialist, advising Senate Democrats on how they should craft the legislation. “The next thing to do is make progress, get back to the starting line and start going in the right direction.”

Democratic infighting in Congress has stalled the progress Mr. Biden had hoped to make. The climate-focused measure has been whittled down from its most expansive form, in large part because Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia and one of the party’s two The spending package’s holdouts said that they would not vote until they knew more about it.

But if Mr. Biden can secure passage, the bill — which includes $555 billion to fight climate change, largely through tax incentives for low-emission sources of energy — would be the most ambitious plan adopted by the United States yet.

Mr. Manchin’s reluctance has not seemed to temper Mr. Biden’s optimism about having the votes to pass his agenda in both chambers of Congress, with no Republicans expected to support it.

“I believe that Joe will be there,” Mr. Biden said, referring to Mr. Manchin. “I think we’ll get this done.”

Chris Buckley contributed reporting to Sydney, and Somini Sangupta to Glasgow.




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