What Happened on Day 2 of the COP26 Climate Change Summit


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President Biden scolded Russia and China for not participating in the United Nations summit on climate change and drew a sharp contrast between the two countries’ efforts and the American leadership.CreditCredit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

GLASGOW — President Biden capped two days of climate talks with fellow world leaders by hailing new international commitments to curb warming, knocking China and Russia for not participating, and expressing confidence that his domestic climate agenda will clear the House and Senate.

The president said he felt certain that Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a key Democratic holdout on the $1.85 trillion climate change and social safety net bill that Democrats are debating in Congress, would ultimately vote for the bill.

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

Mr. Biden drew a sharp contrast between American leadership and the efforts of China and Russia, whose leaders did not travel to the United Nations summit on climate change, known as COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland.

“I think it’s been a big mistake for China” not to show up at the conference, he said. “They’ve lost their ability to influence people around the world, and people here at COP.”

“It just is a gigantic issue and they walked away,” Mr. Biden said of the Chinese leadership. “How do you do that and claim to have any leadership mantle?”

Mr. Biden had similarly sharp words for President Vladimir Putin of Russia. “His tundra is burning,” Mr. Biden said. “Literally, his tundra is burning. He has serious climate problems. And he has been mum on his willingness to do anything.”

He was asked in the news conference why the United States should make commitments that China and other major producers of greenhouse gases have not.

“Because we want to be able to breathe and we want to be able to lead the world,” Mr. Biden said.

He said of the agreements at the summit, “I can’t think of any two days when more has been accomplished.”

As Mr. Biden prepared to head home on Tuesday, there were growing signs of intraparty discord over his agenda in Washington: Mr. Manchin said that he would not vote on the social plan until he knew more about what it would cost, a move that threatened to undermine Mr. Biden’s sense of optimism abroad and complicate a path to the quick vote the president wants when he gets back home.

“While I have worked hard to find a path to compromise, it is obvious compromise is not good enough for some in Congress,” Mr. Manchin said on Monday, reading from prepared remarks. “It’s all or nothing, and their position doesn’t seem to change unless we agree to everything. Enough is enough.”

Mr. Manchin was apparently referring to liberals in the House, who have put up their own roadblocks on a separate $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill.

He warned, “I’m open to supporting a final bill that helps move our country forward, but I’m equally open to voting against a bill that hurts our country.”

While in Glasgow, Mr. Biden was asked throughout the day about Mr. Manchin’s comments, but avoided answering until his evening news conference. In his remarks and his answers to reporters, he said the world must do more to meet the climate challenge, but he stressed what he said were words of thanks he had received from other leaders for bringing the United States back to negotiations after disengagement under former President Donald J. Trump.

“We showed up,” Mr. Biden said. “And by showing up, we’ve had a profound impact.”

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

President Biden and other world leaders left the United Nations climate change summit on Tuesday with agreements to curb emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and to end deforestation by 2030.

But while the progress was notable, it still fell well short of the big prize: securing aggressive commitments to reach net-zero carbon emissions globally, to slow the rising temperatures that have led to lethal fires, floods, droughts and heat waves around the world.

It also remains to be seen whether richer, polluting countries will follow through on their promises to provide $100 billion a year to help developing countries to fight global warming — a goal that John Kerry, the U.S. special climate envoy, said on Tuesday was within reach.

Whether countries can achieve those aims will play out in the coming days, after the heads of state and government have left town, during tough negotiations among their officials who will stay behind at the summit, known as COP26.

Addressing world leaders poised to leave the conference, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain expressed cautious optimism about Tuesday’s progress. But he warned that the world still has a “long way to go.”

Mr. Biden said before heading home, “I can’t think of any two days when more has been accomplished” on climate change.

On Tuesday, countries promised to curb emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that spews from oil and natural gas operations, livestock production and landfills, and, in the short term, is many times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

The White House said that 105 countries, and counting, had signed the Global Methane Pledge, a commitment to reducing methane emissions 30 percent by 2030, including half of the world’s top 30 methane emitters. But some major polluters, like China, Russia and India, have not joined.

Mr. Biden called the methane agreement a “game-changing commitment,” also announced that for the first time, the Environmental Protection Agency intends to limit the methane released by existing oil and gas rigs across the United States.

The federal government previously had rules that aimed to prevent methane leaks from oil and gas wells built since 2015, but the Trump administration rescinded them.

Congress restored the rule this year, and Mr. Biden has said he will strengthen it. In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday proposed a new regulation to curb methane from thousands of existing oil and gas wells in the United States.

The president has set an aggressive target of cutting United States carbon emissions by 50 to 52 percent below 2005 levels by the end of the decade, but legislation to help meet that goal is stalled in Congress. That leaves the administration relying on regulations and other executive actions.

At the climate summit this week, Mr. Biden tried to persuade other countries to reduce emissions from fossil fuels that are heating the planet to dangerous levels.

In addition to the pledge on methane, leaders of more than 100 countries vowed on Tuesday to end deforestation by 2030, agreeing to a sweeping accord aimed at protecting the world’s forests, which are crucial to absorbing carbon dioxide and slowing the rise in global warming. President Biden said the United States would contribute billions to the effort.

The pact — which includes countries such as Brazil, Russia and China — encompasses about 85 percent of the world’s forests, officials said.

But some environmentalists were skeptical. In 2014, an accord was reached to halve deforestation by 2020 and end it entirely by 2030. Five years after the pledge, according to one estimate, the area of forest destroyed annually had grown dramatically worse.

“It allows another decade of forest destruction and isn’t binding,” said Carolina Pasquali, the executive director of Greenpeace Brazil. “Meanwhile, the Amazon is already on the brink and can’t survive years more deforestation.”

The crush of people waiting to enter the United Nations climate change summit snakes down the street. Police officers call out asking the cold, grumbling delegates not to take photos, yet virtually everyone does.

Successfully passing that checkpoint leads to a second, equally long security line.


What It’s Like to Cover Global Climate Talks

Lisa Friedman

Lisa Friedman📍Reporting from my 10th COP

What It’s Like to Cover Global Climate Talks

Lisa Friedman

Lisa Friedman📍Reporting from my 10th COP

Kieran Dodds for The New York Times

This week and next, I’m in Glasgow with my colleagues for the United Nations climate summit known as COP26. Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain called it “the moment when we get real about climate change.”

Here’s what it’s like inside →



Read More: What Happened on Day 2 of the COP26 Climate Change Summit

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