Biden announces new plan to conserve global forests at COP26

Journalists listen to US President Joe Biden speak at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, on November 1.
Journalists listen to US President Joe Biden speak at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, on November 1. (Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images)

US President Joe Biden is entering the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland, with a message of urgency and what he hopes is a convincing-enough plan to make good on his promise to cut US greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. He arrived Monday morning with a message to leaders that his word is good when it comes to following through on his climate commitments.

Biden’s challenge this week is convincing fellow leaders that the United States will remain committed to the cause, and to cajole them to do more themselves.

“We think this is the decisive decade, the decade of decision, the decade of action. And it is critical that countries lay out long term plans,” said John Kerry, the US envoy for climate change, on the eve of the summit.

Kerry has laid out four main goals for the United States at the Scotland talks:

  1. Raising global ambition on containing a rise in temperatures
  2. Getting countries to commit to taking action this decade
  3. Driving ahead on finance and adaptation efforts to vulnerable communities
  4. Completing negotiations on implementation guidelines for the Paris Climate accord

Biden will be carrying with him significant private sector commitments designed to bolster his pitch, as well as the willingness to aid smaller countries with the financing and technical expertise they may lack.

Biden had once hoped to arrive in Glasgow having passed a signature spending package containing the biggest-ever US investment in combatting climate change, a signal to the world he was serious about reducing greenhouse gasses.

He fell short of that, announcing only a framework plan in the hours before he departed for Europe last week. The bills have yet to be voted upon as Democrats continue haggling over the timing.

It’s just the latest example global players can point to as reason for skepticism after more than three decades of watching the US leadership pendulum swing back and forth on an increasingly urgent and dire issue.

Still, it appears likely the sweeping social legislation will pass eventually, perhaps as soon as this week. And even as the bill was stripped of major liberal priorities and shrank from $3.5 trillion to $1.75 trillion, it retained the originally imagined $555 billion in climate and clean energy provisions, the largest single legislative investment on climate in American history.

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