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Biden ‘Disappointed’ Over Chinese, Russian Lack of Action at Climate Summit

President Joe Biden said he is disappointed that China and Russia have yet to come up with new commitments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, as the U.S. approaches a major climate summit with what his administration says are strong new goals. 

Those include a set of new U.S. climate commitments that build on previous global agreements; the unveiling of plans for a $3 billion President’s Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience to tackle climate awareness, financing and adaptation efforts; and a raft of domestically focused legislation that aims to shore up American infrastructure while also cutting greenhouse gas pollution by well over one gigaton in 2030. That legislation has occupied the U.S. Congress for months, with members of the legislative body negotiating fiercely throughout — but ultimately, failing to bring the matter to a vote before Biden left for the summit last week. 

 

China, the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that cause global warming, announced last Thursday it has no new significant goals to reduce climate-changing emissions. Nor is the nation sending its head of state to the U.N. Climate Change Conference, in Glasgow. On Monday, China’s government announced that President Xi Jinping will only address the summit in the form of a written statement. 

Biden said late Sunday that he found it “disappointing” that China and Russia have not made any new climate commitments.  

“The disappointment relates to the fact that Russia and — and — and including not only Russia, but China, basically didn’t show up in terms of any commitments to deal with climate change,” Biden said.  “And there’s a reason why people should be disappointed in that. I found it disappointing myself.”

This year’s summit builds on a legally binding agreement that 196 parties — including the U.S., Russia and China — signed in 2015, in Paris. The international treaty commits those countries to embark on emissions cuts that aim to limit the planet’s warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. 

 

The U.S. has previously faltered on its own climate commitments, with former President Donald Trump announcing in 2017 that he was withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Agreement. That took effect in November 2020, but Biden rejoined the deal on his first day in office. And critics note that some of his administration’s climate commitments are not as large as those promised by other developed nations.  

“We go into (the summit) with roughly 65% of the world’s economy in line with a 1.5 degree commitment, with still some significant outliers, one of those significant outliers being China, who will not be represented at the leader level at COP-26,” said U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on Monday. “And who we do believe has an obligation to step up to greater ambition as we go forward.”

Administration officials have repeatedly described China as the U.S.’ biggest adversary and said the relationship between the two powers is a challenging one. But, Sullivan said, that should have no impact on this globally important issue. 

“They are perfectly well capable of living up to their responsibilities,” he said. “It’s up to them to do so. And nothing about the nature of the relationship between the U.S. and China, structurally or otherwise, impedes or stands in the way of them doing their part.”

The summit continues through Tuesday.

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