President Joe Biden joins other world leaders in highlighting the importance of forest conservation as a force against global warming, and raising ambitions at the UN climate summit abroad even as the coal-state senator once again threatens Biden’s landmark climate legislation Inside.
Democratic Senator Joe Manchin’s comments that he still has doubts about Biden’s $1.75 trillion domestic policy proposal, which includes $555 billion in climate change appropriations, come at an unfortunate time for the president.
They arrived as Biden and his aides spurned, persuaded and struck deals to government leaders to take faster action on reducing climate-destroying fossil fuel emissions at a summit with more than 100 other world leaders in Glasgow, Scotland, on its second day Tuesday.
Manchin has a key vote in the Senate, where Biden has a slim Democratic majority, and has successively killed key parts of the administration’s climate proposals. He said Monday that he was unsure about the impact of the legislation on the economy and federal debt and was “as open to voting against it” as he is.
Biden was determined to prove to the world that the United States was back in the global effort to combat climate change, after his predecessor Donald Trump withdrew the United States – the world’s largest economy and second-largest climate polluter – from the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
Putting the United States on a path to halving its production of coal, oil, and natural gas by 2050, as its climate law seeks, “demonstrates to the world that the United States is not only back at the negotiating table, but that we hope to lead the way,” Biden told delegates and observers at Glasgow on Monday.
“I know that hasn’t always been the case,” he added, referring to Trump’s tenure in office.
Biden basically bet that the right mix of policies on climate change and the economy would not only be good for the country, but would help Democrats politically. But there are open questions about whether he has enough political capital at home to make good on his promises to world leaders about turning the United States toward renewable energy.
Tuesday’s gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey – which see Biden’s victory in last year’s election – will provide the first ballot box test of how Americans view his presidency.
Biden is set to join other leaders Tuesday in an initiative to boost protection of the world’s forests, which pull massive amounts of carbon pollution from the air. After discussions at the United Nations summit on reforestation and methane, Biden will hold a final press conference before returning to Washington aboard Air Force One.
Back home, his administration on Tuesday chose to launch a large-scale plan to reduce methane emissions, targeting powerful greenhouse gases that significantly contribute to global warming.
Biden was upbeat on Monday, smiling and patting his back with Allied leaders in Scotland – despite resting his eyes briefly while attending climate speeches. He came to the top saying he hoped his legislation would be passed this week.
But recent objections from Manchin threaten to close the narrow window that Biden may have to pass his spending bill. The senator is eager to preserve his state’s declining coal industry despite the decline in coal’s competitiveness in US energy markets.
If Biden’s climate legislation falters, he could limit himself to climate-related regulatory projects that the next US president could easily overturn, turning his poignant cries for climate action abroad into sad talk at home.
Manchin’s remarks are a possible sign that one of the two key Democratic voters in the Senate wants to delay any vote on the president’s agenda until the bill has been fully examined. But House Democrats are still taking steps this week to pass Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure package, which includes efforts to tackle climate change. The White House is seeking to turn both measures into law, tying them together in hopes of appeasing a diverse and sometimes fragmented Democratic bloc.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki issued a statement that the administration is confident that the spending package actually meets the criteria set by Manchin.
“It is paid in full, and it will reduce the deficit, lower the costs of health care, child care, aged care and housing,” Psaki said. “We remain confident that the plan will win the support of Senator Manchin.”
Biden hinted at the challenge of trying to lead globally on climate at a time of political divisions at home. In seemingly impromptu comments on the sidelines of Monday’s Glasgow summit, Biden noted the collapse of US climate efforts under Trump.
“I shouldn’t apologize, but I do apologize for the fact that the United States, the last administration, withdrew from the Paris Accords and put us sort of behind the eight ball a little bit,” he said.