Nov 1, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden urges world to "answer history's call" at COP26

President Biden, speaking at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, on Monday, warned that "every day we delay" strong action on climate change, "the cost of inaction increases."

Why it matters: The United States' climate credibility is on the line during this year's summit, which has been billed as a crucial moment for countries to pledge more dramatic actions in order to avoid potentially devastating climate change effects over the next several decades.

The backdrop: Biden arrived at the meeting without congressionally enacted climate legislation. Instead, he has a significant new goal: $555 billion in climate-related spending.

  • Congressional Democrats are working this week to hand Biden a bill that includes major climate funding, but it's far from guaranteed to pass due to deep divisions between progressives and moderates.
  • Tensions between the U.S. and China — the world's two largest greenhouse gas emitters — are exceptionally high. The tension has complicated climate talks in the past and could further hinder the global cooperation needed to prevent drastic climate change.

What he's saying: "We know that none of us can escape the worst that's yet to come if we fail to seize this moment," Biden told world leaders and diplomats at the conference.

  • "Within the growing catastrophe, I think there is a growing opportunity, not just for the United States, but for all of us. We're standing at an inflection point in world history," he added.
  • "Cleaner air for our children. More bountiful oceans. Healthier forests and ecosystems for our planet. We can create an environment that raises the standard of living around the world. And this is a moral imperative, but this is also an economic imperative."
"My friends, if we are to recognize that better, more hopeful future, every nation has to do its part with ambitious targets to keep 1.5 degrees [Celsius] in reach and specific plans for how to get there, especially the major economies. It's imperative we support the developing nations so they can be our partners in this effort."

The big picture: The U.S. under former President Trump pulled out of the Paris Agreement in November 2020. Biden returned the nation to the accord, but the U.S.' credibility had already been damaged.

  • After his speech, Biden apologized to his fellow world leaders for Trump's decision to withdraw and suggested that Americans had been slow to acknowledge the threat from climate change.
  • Biden criticized China and Russia on Sunday for failing to pledge new climate commitments alongside other members of the Group of 20, saying he "found it disappointing."
  • The Biden administration, through John Kerry, the president's climate envoy, spent months before the summit encouraging other countries to make new climate pledges.

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