GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – Every Democrat in Glasgow for United Nations climate meeting, from John Kerry to Joe Biden to AOC To Barack Obama, he shared one message. After four long years of the Trump administration acts as a ball of destruction, these politicians said, The United States is back in the climatic process and ready to lead the world to success. There is only one problem: it sucks.
The occasional American Democratic voter probably thinks of the Obama administration as the gold standard when it comes to the UN climate leadership. It’s not an accident: Ohover the past four years, Democrats have made the Paris Agreement – and, in addition, Barack Obama’s image as an international climate champion – a key part of their image. Joe Biden led a fierce campaign to re-enter the Paris Agreement. Trump is almost funny evil climate and environmental records have done a great job in further strengthening the image of its predecessor.
Accordingly, the message that the U.S. is “returning” to Glasgow should be a positive fan role to get everyone excited that the adults have returned to the room and are ready to help. It’s even a pretty literal interpretation when it comes to staff. Mhe was a major part of the American negotiating team on the ground in Glasgow, especially Kerry himself part A team from the Obama era.
But it is important to remember that for many parties on the international stage, especially those who suffer the most from climate influences, the Obama administration was not a saint. Was bully. The US has always operated in its own short-term economy personal interest when it comes to international climate policy – even those interests that oppose reducing emissions or helping poorer countries. Although the Paris Agreement was a great success in terms of attracting everyone to the table, the United States drove a a very difficult deal against many countries in fact required survive climate change to make it happen.
“A match for US during Obama, and now again under Biden, it’s like looking like a climate leader, not doing anything that would actually oblige us to do anything, ”Brandon Wu, policy and campaign director at ActionAid USA, told me via email. What that means, Wu explained, represents incredibly small concessions such as great victories and “compromise negotiations” – while resisting the fulfillment of what is actually needed.
“This is very similar to the way the United States acted under Obama,” he said. “They kept trumpeting about ‘US climate leadership,’ never promising a fair share of emissions reductions or moving around on things that are most important to developing countries – finances and loss and damage.”
Looking at the way the U.S. works in Glasgow, it’s easy to see how this pattern plays out. Kerry stressed subsidies for fossil fuels as the “definition of madness” in Glasgow last week. But the U.S. is the world’s largest oil and gas producer, and the fact that Kerry’s team reportedly sought to include a language that enabled continued fossil fuel subsidies make sense in this light. The United States is too the world’s largest historical broadcaster, responsible for much of the destruction that developing countries around the world see firsthand – and that they pay for. Negotiators from small island states to have he shouted USA in particular because it strongly pushes against fulfilling the promise that real financial aid will be delivered at this meeting. That is essentially it decades of refusal to take responsibility economic growth tied to fossil fuels that made it the richest nation in the world.
Glasgow is “the same old shit from Kerry and the Obama-era gang,” Nathan Thanki of the Global Campaign to Seek Climate Justice via Twitter DM told me. “The challenge for the United States is to a) give the impression of climate leadership, while b) advance the US interest in oil and gas.”
On that front, the state specifically signed a the promise of reducing methane emissions (no penalty for failure) while ignoring the opportunity to join a group of other nations who created an alliance of governments with plans to end oil and gas production. It is also avoided a the promise of switching to electric vehicles even like the Biden administration spoke of his commitment them at home.
Diplomacy is awkward, difficult decisions need to be made, and no country is perfect. But Americans should be realistic about the work our diplomats do abroad. We should understand that when Kerry and his team say USA “returned” to the UN, other countries could be grateful to have the second largest current broadcaster at the table — and also I’m a little scared what the bully in the room will do next.
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