Biden’s Xi scolding completely puts US-China mistrust on the map at COP26 – Community News
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Biden’s Xi scolding completely puts US-China mistrust on the map at COP26

GLASGOW, Scotland – President Biden’s statement Tuesday that Xi Jinping has “run away” from an opportunity to help save the planet showed the intensity of the simmering rivalry and mutual mistrust that lingered at the back of the COP26 climate summit.

Why it matters: The US and China together account for nearly 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions, meaning any major climate breakthrough would require both superpowers on board.

  • But the rivalry that characterizes the rest of the relationship also made its way to Glasgow, where Biden scolded China for failing to show up and Chinese leaders suspected the US can’t quite deliver on Biden’s promises.

Send the news: Speaking to the press before leaving Glasgow, Biden said Xi – who has not left China for 21 months due to the pandemic – had made a “big mistake” by skipping COP26.

  • “The single most important thing that has the world’s attention is the climate, everywhere from Iceland to Australia. It’s just a huge problem and they ran away,” Biden continued. “How do you do that and claim to have some leadership mantle?”

The other side: Chinese leaders, meanwhile, suspect Biden is making promises America will not keep, Li Shuo, who is based in Beijing for Greenpeace, told Axios.

  • “What you have in China is more and more implementation, but the main goals do not meet the ambition we need. What you have in the US is the exact opposite,” Li said.
  • “You have all the ambition in your goals, in your rhetoric. You don’t necessarily implement that because you are limited by your politics in your own country.”
  • And while Republicans in Congress argue that the US shouldn’t act if China doesn’t, Li says, a growing chorus in Beijing argues that Biden is politicking the climate agenda to limit China’s development.

The Backstory: Xi chose not to travel to Scotland and make new commitments to cut emissions, which arguably undermined the summit before it even started, as China is easily the world’s largest carbon emitter.

  • Biden, meanwhile, offered major initiatives during the world leaders portion of the summit, which ended Tuesday — though his struggles on Capitol Hill threatened his climate agenda and reverberated in conference halls.

The state of affairs: The Chinese delegation was virtually invisible during the opening days of the summit, but climate envoy Xie Zhenhua is in Glasgow and will play a key role in the negotiations over the next two weeks.

  • Xie and Biden’s climate envoy, John Kerry, knows each other well and met one-on-one before the summit started.
  • Kerry has proposed that the US and China address climate as a “critical self-contained issue”, but Chinese leaders have rejected that framing. Meanwhile, in Washington, there is strong resistance to giving China leeway in other areas to gain climate cooperation, reports Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian of Axios.

Biden rejected the idea that the US should only accelerate its climate action if China does too, saying the US must act “because we want to be able to breathe and we want to lead the world.”

  • And British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hinted on Tuesday evening that he was pushing China to move its peak emissions target from “before 2030” to 2025 – a promise that would radically change the outlook after Glasgow.

It comes down to: The world can’t tackle the climate crisis if China and the US don’t move in the same direction, Li said, but “they don’t necessarily have to move in the same direction while holding hands.”

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