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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The bad diplomatic vibes heading into the critical United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, might be improving slightly.

Catch up fast: Chinese President Xi Jinping yesterday pledged to end overseas finance for building new coal-fired power plants and boost support for clean energy in developing nations.

  • His move at the UN General Assembly came hours after President Biden proposed to double U.S. climate financial help for developing nations to over $11 billion annually by 2024.

Why it matters: Both moves, while facing uncertainties, could create a dose of momentum heading into the summit that UN Secretary-General António Guterres this week warned is at high risk of failing.

  • China is the largest public financier of overseas coal plant construction. Chinese officials have faced pressure from the U.S. and other nations to end the practice.
  • Meanwhile, developed nations' failure to mobilize a long-promised $100 billion annually by 2020 to help poorer countries fight climate change has created friction in pre-summit talks.

What they're saying: Guterres, whose deep concerns about the Glasgow summit in six weeks have been palpable of late, said he was encouraged by the twin moves from the world's two largest economies.

  • Guterres, in a statement, noted that phasing out coal was the single most important thing for keeping the Paris Agreement's temperature-limiting target viable.

Reality check: There are outstanding questions about Biden's pledge and China's move.

  • The U.S. funding increases need approval in the narrowly divided Congress to materialize. Xi Jinping's video remarks to the UN provided no details about his plan.
  • Columbia University energy expert David Sandalow tells the Wall Street Journal of China's pledge: “Details matter. In particular, what happens to projects already in the pipeline? But this is a significant and very positive announcement.”
  • Thom Woodroofe, a former climate negotiator now at the Asia Society Policy Institute, said in a brief note that a key thing to watch is how much weight the announcement holds. "Will Beijing be able to rein in finance provided by all Chinese banks," he asked.

What we're watching: That's whether the U.S. and Chinese steps will create new diplomatic openings or spur stronger emissions efforts from other nations.

  • Guterres, in a statement about the U.S. and Chinese moves, said "we need decisive action by all countries, especially the G20." Under current emissions pledges, a "catastrophic" amount of warming would still occur, he said.

Yes, but: Europe's energy crunch may be creating fresh headwinds for new emissions policies there.

  • "Surging gas and electricity prices in Europe have intensified the political backlash against Brussels’ plans to extend carbon taxes on petrol and heating bills, threatening a central policy of the EU’s drive to hit net zero emissions by 2050," the Financial Times reports.
  • And Xi, president of the world's largest carbon emitter by far, did not offer new domestic emissions commitments.

Go deeper

Obama to attend UN climate summit in Glasgow

Former President Barack Obama speaks during the groundbreaking ceremony for the Obama Presidential Center at Jackson Park on September 28, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. Photo: Kamil Krzaczynski / AFP

Former President Barack Obama will travel to Glasgow next month for the UN climate summit, CNN reports.

Driving the news: Obama will meet with young climate change advocates and "urge more robust action going forward by all of us — governments, the private sector, philanthropy, and civil society," according to an Obama spokesperson, per CNN.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Oct 16, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Key clean power provision likely won't survive in Dems' spending bill

A construction worker walks along a dirt road at the Avangrid Renewables La Joya wind farm in Encino, New Mexico, on Aug. 5, 2020. Photo: Cate Dingley/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A pillar of Democrats' plans to speed deployment of zero-carbon electricity is likely to be cut from major spending and tax legislation they are struggling to move on a party-line vote, per multiple reports and a Capitol Hill aide.

Driving the news: The New York Times, citing anonymous congressional aides and lobbyists, reports that West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) has told the White House he "strongly opposes" the Clean Electricity Performance Program.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Oct 15, 2021 - Energy & Environment

White House vows to treat climate change as "systemic" financial risk

Zailey Segura, Zavery Segura and their mother Karen Smith wade through flood waters while walking to the childrens fathers house after Hurricane Nicholas landed in Galveston, Texas on September 14, 2021. Photo: Mark Felix for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

A new White House report released Friday morning says climate change poses "systemic risks" to the U.S. financial system, and presents a "roadmap" to building a "climate-resilient" economy.

Why it matters: Top aides emphasized that framing to promote wide-ranging moves that will weave climate risk into many agencies' new policies and regulations.