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‘He’s a villain’: Joe Manchin attracts global anger over climate crisis | Joe Manchin
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‘He’s a villain’: Joe Manchin attracts global anger over climate crisis | Joe Manchin

A photo taken in December shows high-tide flooding hitting low sections of Majuro Atoll in the Marshall Islands.


In the brutal machinations Politics in the USA, Joe Manchin has been elevated to a status of supreme decision-maker, the man who could make or break Joe Biden’s presidency.

Internationally, however, the Democratic senator’s new fame has been received with puzzlement and growing bitterness, as countries already ravaged by the climate crisis brace themselves for the US – history’s largest ever emitter of planet-heating gases – again failing to pass major climate legislation.

Six months ago, Manchin refused to support a bill to lower carbon emissions. This has stalled its progress in a divided US Senate, where Republicans are unanimously against climate action. Biden could be hurt politically if the Build Back Better Bill is not passed. However, the ramifications of this failure will ripple far beyond Washington, especially in developing nations that are increasingly at the mercy. Climate change is a disaster.

“He’s a villain, he’s a threat to the globe,” said Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, based in Bangladesh. “If you talk to the average citizen in Dhaka, they will know who Joe Manchin is. Amazingly, Americans have a lot of knowledge about American politics. We know everything about the Senate and the filibuster.

“What the Americans do or don’t do on climate will impact the world and it’s incredible that this one coal lobbyist is holding things up. It will cause very bad consequences for us in Bangladesh, unfortunately.”

On 19/12/12, it appeared that the often difficult negotiations between Manchin and the White House and Democratic leaders were doomed. The West Virginia senator stated that he could not support the billThe $1.75tn bill was voted down by the House of Representatives due to concerns about inflation and the national debt. The latest twist caused anguish for those who were previously unaware that their futures would be decided by a politician located thousands of kilometers away.

“I’ve been following the situation closely,” said Tina Stege, climate envoy for the Marshall Islands, a low-lying Pacific nation that Risques being eliminatedby rising sea levels. “We have to halve emissions in this decade and can’t do it without strong, immediate action by the US.”

A photo taken in December shows high-tide flooding hitting low sections of Majuro Atoll in the Marshall Islands.
Photo taken 6/12/2021. High-tide flooding has hit low sections of Majuro Atoll, Marshall Islands.Photograph by Giff Johnson/AFP/Getty Images

Stege said the Marshall Islands was already suffering the impacts of the climate crisis and if the US doesn’t slash its emissions “the outcomes for countries like mine are unthinkable.”

Even America’s closest allies have looked on in dismay as a single lawmaker from Biden’s own party has stalled what would be the biggest – and arguably first – piece of climate legislation in the US’s plodding, and often rancorous, history of dealing with escalating global heating.

“Biden has done a fair bit in very challenging circumstances [but] in Canada we look on with bewilderment because it’s such a different political context. It’s very bizarre,” said Catherine McKenna, who was environment minister in Justin Trudeau’s government that introduced carbon pricing in 2019. “Politics is hard but I don’t think anyone has given up. We just really hope they are able to get a deal.”

McKenna said she was vilified by some Canadian provincial premiers who “fought to the death” against carbon pricing but that there was now broader support for climate action across the country, including within industry, than in the US. “It’s unfortunate that it’s just one person that is holding up something that’s so critically important,” she said of Manchin.

“Joe Manchin is a problem, and I think he needs to be called out,” said Ed Davey, a British MP who was previously the UK’s secretary of state for energy and climate change. “It’s in the US interest, in the interest of West Virginia and elsewhere, to take advantage of green zero-carbon technology, which is the future.”

Davey, who is now leader of the Liberal Democrats, warned that the US risks ceding leadership in clean energy to China if it doesn’t act. “People will end up paying higher prices, jobs will go and not be created, the security of America will be reduced, Beijing will be laughing,” he said, adding that Manchin was in effect “working on behalf of the Chinese government” by not supporting the transition away from fossil fuels.

China used last year’s Cop26 climate talks in Scotland to “insidiously point out to every country that US just can’t implement”, said Rachel Kyte, an expert in international affairs at Tufts University and a climate adviser to the UN secretary general. Kyte said that while many governments believe Biden is sincere, they are frustrated by the fact that he has not been able to fulfill his commitments. This frustration is compounded with a lack American action on related issues, such as climate finance and poorer countries.

“There’s almost a resentment that the US just can’t deliver,” she added. “There’s this sinking feeling about the politics of America. You can’t turn your back on the US because it’s still the biggest economy, but what are countries supposed to do?”

Manchin is receiving a lot of this angst.

After more than a decade in politics, the 74-year old senator has suddenly attracted a level beyond his fiefdom West Virginia where he was governor and senator.Reaping millions of dollarsthrough his personal investments as well as campaign contributions from the coal industry, which continues to dominate his state. It’s a situation that has caused bafflement overseas.

Young demonstrators take part during a climate change strike in Dhaka, Bangladesh, to demand that world leaders be imprisoned for not taking environmental measures that affect the world.
Young protestors participate in a climate strike in Dhaka, Bangladesh to demand that world leaders are held accountable for failing to implement environmental measures that have an impact on the world.Photograph: Barcroft Media/Getty Images

“Who is Manchin, the Dem senator from West Virginia who betrayed Biden?” La Repubblica in Italy has Requirements. Clarín, a newspaper in Argentina, has So called Manchin a “rebelde” and a “tycoon with ties to the mining structure of West Virginia, the other Virginia of the USA”. Helsingin Sanomat, a Danish newspaper, also noted Manchin’s links to the fossil fuel industry and Lamentable that he has “disagreed with the most ambitious climate action” put forward by the US.

The stakes for negotiations with Manchin are much greater than any usual Washington political maneuvering. The The world is already being strafedWildfires, heatwaves and floods caused by the climate crisis and rising temperature are on track for exceeding the limits set by governments in Paris climate accords. This would cause some parts of the globe to be pushed to the limit. beyond human livability.

Salvaging this situation will be virtually impossible without swift action by the US, the world’s second largest carbon polluter and a major oil and gas exporter. Analysts estimate that the half a billion dollars of support for renewable energy, electric cars, and the Build Back better bill would make this situation much more manageable. Give the USA a chanceBiden and scientists believe that cutting its emissions by half by 2020 is crucial to prevent climate catastrophe.

But Manchin’s opposition has already ensured the removal of a key element of the bill, a plan to force utilities to phase in clean energy over time, and the prospect of him joining Republicans to block the overall package has seen him come under intense criticism within the US.

Climate activists have ConfrontedManchin in Washington, kayaked To his yachtto remonstrate. Some fellow Democrats Say it he has “failed the American people”. Even Charleston’s Sunday Gazette (West Virginia’s local paper) has run a headline of ‘We need this so bad’, in reference to the bill.

All of this has had little impact, but Manchin Did you say? earlier this month there could still be agreement on “the climate thing”, offering some vague hope to activists while not quite quelling their anger. “Senator Manchin is a fossil-fueled sociopath on a Maserati joyride while he lets the world burn,” said Janet Redman, climate campaign director at Greenpeace USA. “At the end of the day, Manchin cares less about his constituents than he does about the fossil fuel industry.”

The current, shaky attempt to pass climate legislation is a familiar episode in a Long recordAmerican inadequacy. Donald Trump donned a coal miner’s helmet on the campaign trail and removed the US from the Paris climate deal. Barack Obama failed to pass cap-and trade legislation through a recalcitrant Congress. George W Bush opposed the Kyoto climate agreements. Robert Byrd, a former Democratic senator from West Virginia in 1993, blocked a Bill Clinton plan for taxing carbon emissions.

Manchin is, in some respects, a “fall guy” for a deeper American political dysfunction over the climate crisis, Kyte said. “If Republicans weren’t in the lock-grip of certain vested interests, if they had a policy on climate adaptation or green jobs for the future, Joe Manchin wouldn’t have the influence he has,” she said.

President Barack Obama wipes perspiration from his face as he speaks about climate change at Georgetown University in Washington in 2013. Despite signing up to the Paris climate accord he failed to pass major climate crisis legislation.
President Barack Obama wipes the sweat from his forehead as he speaks at Georgetown University in Washington about climate change in 2013. He failed to pass major legislation on climate change despite signing up to the Paris Climate Agreement. Photograph: Charles Dharapak/AP

“Joe Manchin has become the personification of a problem and removing him doesn’t solve it,” Kyte added. “It doesn’t give us a bipartisan agreement of the danger we are in. A political culture that allows you to enrich yourself and your family from industries you regulate and not declare a conflict of interest lies beyond Joe Manchin, it’s bigger than just him.”

Even if American political inertia hasn’t changed, the world certainly has – the last seven years were the planet’s hottest on recordCataclysmic wildfires can now be seen all year. In the US WestFlooding swamps that can cause death BasementsNew York City is beautiful TownsGermany and SubwaysChina. There is growing concern that the US cannot continue to waste its time trying to solve the climate crisis.

“Unfortunately, politicians getting fossil fuel money are standing in the way and sacrificing the rest of us once again,” said Vanessa Nakate, a climate justice activist from Uganda. Nakate highlighted that Africa is a major contributor to climate change, but it is only a small part of global emissions.

“We are so reliant on the choices others make,” she said. “Our lives are literally in their hands.”


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