President Biden closed out his two-day stay in Glasgow with a speech on Tuesday, Nov. 2. He wrapped up the U.S. stance on the importance of climate change and attempted to shame Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping for their noticeable absences. During his attendance at the COP26 climate conference, Biden led the U.S. into major agreements surrounding methane emissions and deforestation, each of which included at least 100 signatories.
Biden Criticizes No-Shows
As previously reported by Liberty Nation, Chinese President Xi Jinping was not expected to attend the international climate summit. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s absence was also expected. In his exit speech, Biden recognized the lack of representation from two major greenhouse gas emitters at the summit. Proud of his presence, Biden followed that by saying, “we’ve [the U.S.] had a profound impact on the way I think the rest of the world is looking at the United States and its leadership role.”
He went on to condemn China and Russia’s absence, suggesting it signaled the two nations are failing to live up to their ambitions on the world stage: “The fact that China, trying to assert – understandably—a new role in the world as a world leader and not showing up, come on … it’s a gigantic issue and they just walked away. How do you do that and claim to have any leadership mantle? Same with Putin and Russia.” He also accused Putin of being “mum on the willingness to do anything” with “serious, serious climate problems.”
The overall mood on Tuesday was optimistic, according to attendees. One major announcement to come out was the methane pledge. About 100 parties and nations signed a global commitment to cut methane emissions by 30% of 2020 levels before 2030. Methane is the main compound of natural gas, and it also comes from livestock, rice cultivation, biomass burning, waste, and fossil fuel production. Its lifespan is short in the atmosphere, and it is removed quickly. Methane is a greenhouse gas with near-term warming power 80 times higher than carbon dioxide; however, it only accounts for 17% of total global manmade greenhouse gas emissions.
Climate experts claim cutting methane emissions “will immediately slow down climate change.” COP26 participants were pleased with the high level of participation in the pledge as it “set a strong floor in terms of the ambition.” No details on how governments intend to execute this cut were included in the compact. No ramifications for failure were included in the deal either. Therefore, by 2030 if those 100 groups and countries cut their emissions by less than 30% based on 2020’s numbers, there will be no consequences. In this way, the pledge resembles elements of the 2015 Paris Accord, as it is based solely on keeping promises, some of which are likely to be little more than lip service.
On Monday, more than 100 countries re-pledged to end deforestation. This agreement was followed up with some specifics from major governments and organizations. The European Union pledged $1 billion over the next five years to protect the world’s forests, with a good chunk of that going toward the Congo Basin fund. The fund is used to protect the second largest rainforest against industrialization and mining. According to the pact, $400 million is dedicated to the Amazon, and $475 million is for the Indonesian tropical rainforest.
President Biden promised $9 million through 2030 to “conserve and restore our forests” in the United States. He also noted that he wants his fellow Americans to recognize their country holds the responsibility to step up and finance developing countries suffering from deforestation.
Lending a Hand to South Africa
Extending a helping hand is a theme for this year’s climate summit. The United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, and European Union announced they would help South Africa transition away from coal. The $8.5 billion partnership will initiate the decarbonization of South Africa’s energy system. Climate diplomats hope this agreement will set a chain reaction for other deals with developing countries that are heavy polluters. More commitments from richer nations to help develop clean infrastructure in poorer countries are expected to emerge from COP26.
Biden Arrives Empty-Handed and Leaves in Debt
Biden showed up in Glasgow on Monday without passing his Build Back Better bill at home. He failed to secure major legislation with aggressive climate action before jetting off to the G20 summit in Rome and then to Scotland. After a short trip, the president returns to his seemingly unpassable bill with major promises to keep. The president vowed to cut U.S. methane emissions by 30% in the next nine years, come up with funding for the $8.5 billion potluck for South Africa, and $9 billion for forests. How he plans to work these into the infrastructure bill or include them in a new proposal remains a major question.
These are only the first agreements to be made at the climate summit. U.S. representatives, including Climate Czar John Kerry, are expected to continue working on a collective plan to solve the climate crisis over the next 11 days.
~ Read more from Keelin Ferris.