Within the brutal machinations of US politics, 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 puzzlementAnd 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.
Manchin has refused support for a comprehensive bill to lower greenhouse gas emissions for six months. This has stymied its progress in an evenly divided US Senate where Republicans consistently oppose climate action. Biden’s failure to pass the Build back Better Act could hurt him politically, but the ramifications will reverberate far outside Washington, especially in developing countries that are increasingly at the mercy. Desastrous climate change.
“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. It is amazing how much we know about American politics, including the Senate and 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 December 19, the often difficult negotiations between Manchin and the White House and Democratic leaders looked doomed. West Virginia senator says he cannot supportThe $1.75 trillion bill was introduced citing concerns about inflation and the national deficit. This 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 Risks being eliminatedby rising sea level. “We have to halve emissions in this decade and can’t do it without strong, immediate action by the US.”
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, dean of The Fletcher School at Tufts University and a climate adviser to the UN secretary general. Kyte stated that many governments believe Biden is well-intentioned but can’t keep his promises. This frustration is compounded by the lack of American action in related areas like climate finance for poorer nations.
“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 getting a lot of this angst.
After more than a decade of national politics, the 74 year-old senator has suddenly gained a level of infamy beyond his fiefdom West Virginia, where he has served as senator and governor. reaping millions of dollars through his personal investments and campaign contributions from a coal industry that continues to loom large in his state. It’s a situation that has caused bafflement overseas.
“Who is Manchin, the Dem senator from West Virginia who betrayed Biden?” La RepubblicaItaly has Demanded. 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 Finnish 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 in the negotiations with Manchin are far greater than any other Washington political maneuvering. The The world is already being strafed by wildfires, heatwaves, floods and societal instability wrought by the climate crisis and rising temperatures are on track to breach limits set by governments in the Paris climate accords, a situation that would push some parts of the world 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 electric vehicles and renewable energy included in the Build back Better bill would make this situation much more manageable. Give the US a chance of cutting its emissions in half this decade, which Biden and scientists say is imperative to avoid climate breakdown.
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 Confronted Manchin in Washington and kayaked To his yacht to remonstrate with him. Some fellow Democrats Say he has “failed the American people.” Even the Sunday GazetteCharleston’s local paper,, has published 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, floundering attempt at passing climate legislation is a grimly familiar scene in a Long record of American 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 in his attempt to get cap and trade legislation passed by a recalcitrant Congress. George W Bush opposed the Kyoto climate agreements. Robert Byrd (a former Democratic senator representing West Virginia) blocked a Bill Clinton proposal to tax carbon emissions in 1993.
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.
“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 recordYear-round, cataclysmic wildfires erupt The west coast of the United States and deadly flooding swamps Basements in New York, picturesque Towns in Germany and Subway in China. There is growing concern that the US will not be able to continue its futile efforts to address 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 noted that Africa is suffering from climate change, even though it is responsible only for a small percentage of global emissions.
“We are so reliant on the choices others make,” she said. “Our lives are literally in their hands.”