President Joe Biden demonstrated a new readiness to publicly address China on climate change and its lack of global leadership during the course of five days overseas at two global conferences.
On Tuesday, Biden concluded his time at the United Nations climate meeting in Scotland by chastising Chinese President Xi Jinping for physically missing the session and failing to make the same amount of promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as about 100 other countries. Xi also skipped the previous Group of 20 meeting in Rome, leaving Biden to take the lead in discussions with his French, Italian, British, and German colleagues.
“We showed there, and I think by showing up, we’ve had a tremendous influence on the way I think the rest of the world sees the United States in its leadership position,” Biden said during a press conference on Tuesday to wrap off his trip overseas. China had made a “huge mistake” by skipping the festivities, according to Biden, since “they’ve lost their power to influence people across the world.”
However, in the haze of domestic politics, Biden’s global progress and willingness to challenge China — a posture that was equally important to the emergence of his predecessor, Donald Trump — may be missed.
Biden returned to Washington to face his toughest hurdle yet: passing $3 trillion in additional federal expenditure, including $555 billion for climate change mitigation. His poll numbers are starting to dwindle. The situation might worse in Congress, where a wave of retirements bodes ill for retaining Democratic majorities in the upcoming elections.
Instead of a dispute, the president stated that he prefers to compete with China. He did, however, demonstrate a new tactic of using climate change as a weapon against Beijing.
During the trip, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters that China must “stand up” on climate change, and that the US will continue to urge Beijing. Economic sanctions might be one tool: Biden negotiated an agreement with the European Union to prevent Chinese coal plants from producing “dirty steel.”
At a press conference on Tuesday, the president articulated his reasoning by invoking his father.
“My father had a look on his face. “The only disagreement worse than a deliberate conflict is an unexpected confrontation,” Trump said, adding that he wants to make sure there are no misunderstandings during his next virtual encounter with Xi.
Biden had a warm welcome on the international stage, where he exchanged backslaps, handshakes, and elbow bumps with world leaders at two key international summits, with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyden referring to him as “dear Joe.” He won victory on critical issues such as a global minimum tax on companies and increased global climate change obligations.
Biden stated that no foreign leaders had pressured him on the budget and climate bills in Washington, and he voiced confidence in their passing. Members of his own party, on the other hand, are getting irritated with the delays in resolving intraparty disputes over the issue.
Since launching his presidential campaign in 2015, Biden has framed the twenty-first century as a generational battle between democracies and autocracies, focusing on China’s growing threat.
The five-day European tour was intended to promote Biden’s message that America is back, as well as to underscore why he feels the United States needs to reengage with the rest of the world after four years of isolation. On a variety of economic, security, and environmental concerns, the president attempted to form new alliances and coalitions in order to constrain Beijing from all sides.
When asked why the United States should commit to reducing emissions when China and Russia have not done so to the same extent — a common complaint that his predecessor used to justify withdrawing from the 2015 Paris climate agreement — Biden responded forcefully: “Because we want to be able to breathe and lead the world.”
During the climate summit, Biden made a rare public apology for America’s retreat from climate leadership during the Trump administration.
“Those of us who are responsible for much of the deforestation and all of the difficulties we’ve had so far,” Biden added, have “overwhelming responsibility” to the poorer nations, who are responsible for a small percentage of emissions but are paying a price as the earth warms.
“I shouldn’t apologize,” Trump said, “but I do apologize for the fact that the United States, the previous administration, dropped out of the Paris agreements and placed us a little behind the eight ball.”
Biden also eased a trade battle with Europe that threatened to raise costs in the United States and destroy American products like motorbikes and whiskey. As Biden maintains Trump’s demands in a smoldering economic dispute, the new accord would continue to impede coal-dependent Chinese steel production while allowing his administration to focus on resuming trade discussions with China.
However, the real difficulty between China and the United States on climate change may be a clash of worldviews. As the United States grows more inventive, Biden sees measures to control global warming as a chance to generate employment and support economic growth. The next decade, he said, is critical for addressing climate change.
China, on the other hand, still regards coal and oil as crucial to keep its economy afloat, despite the fact that it is now the world’s second-largest. China’s top negotiator at the United Nations meeting stated that the nation must first grow wealthy before it can make a speedier shift to renewable energy.
“The reason that China is the current greatest emitter is due to China’s unique growth stage,” Xie Zhenhua explained. China can boost its carbon reductions later, according to Xie.
The United States, too, has a lot of work to do. It receives the majority of its energy from natural gas and a little portion from coal, and Biden said during the trip that the US is pressuring the Gulf to pump more oil in order to lower gasoline costs.
China has vowed to being carbon-neutral by 2060, ten years after the United States. For Biden, the issue may be how much of a difference that ten years may make for the world’s two most powerful nations.