In Rome, Biden will meet with Group of 20 members under the banner of “People,” “Planet,” and “Prosperity,” which organizers have dubbed the summit’s central pillars. He’ll then head to Glasgow, Scotland, for the United Nations climate summit.
Soon after taking office and speaking before his first global audience, Biden declared that “America is back.” But with his domestic ambitions faltering in Congress, the luster on such sweeping pronouncements has faded.
BIDEN’S DEMOCRAT VS. AUTOCRAT MESSAGE TO BE TESTED AT G-20 IN ROME
The president’s climate goals are a key part of his domestic programs, but speaking to reporters this week, Biden’s top national security adviser said that foreign leaders participating in the meetings would “understand” if the White House failed to secure a deal with Congress before leaving Washington.
“You’ve got a sophisticated set of world leaders who understand politics in their own country, and understand American democracy, and recognize that working through a complex, far-reaching negotiation on some of the largest investments in modern memory in the United States — that takes time,” Sullivan said during a press briefing at the White House on Tuesday. “I don’t think that world leaders will look at this as a binary issue — ‘Is it done? Is it not done?’”
One senior Democratic House aide told the Washington Examiner on Wednesday, “We are close.”
He added, “That’s the answer to any of your inquiries related to the president’s legislation.”
Whether Democrats’ will come together on Biden’s agenda by an Oct. 31 deadline isn’t yet clear. But while Sullivan was upbeat, the challenges underway in Washington may foretell difficulties ahead for the president’s global agenda.
“The U.S. and Europe will be there, and they’ll be energized and united at both the G-20 and COP26, driving the agenda, shaping the agenda, as it relates to these significant international issues,” including on climate and global infrastructure initiatives, Sullivan said.
Besides Congress, Biden needs cooperation from his counterparts to meet his climate pronouncements, among them his pledge to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Steven Groves, Margaret Thatcher Fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said the Biden administration’s climate pronouncements ring hollow.
Biden’s visit to Glasgow, where 13 Cabinet members and high-ranking officials will join him, is the latest installment in a decadeslong charade.
“There’s this global fantasy that there can be a solution reached by 195 countries in the world to address climate change, with money and with mitigation,” Groves said. “I think what Glasgow will do is perpetuate that fantasy.”
The chief of staff to former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley before joining the Trump White House, Groves told reporters on a call Thursday that despite promises to slow carbon emissions with new spending, Democrats “don’t have any democratic legitimacy or public support for either of those contentions.”
And while U.S. allies will join Biden in Rome and Glasgow, absent from the table will be the nation responsible for the world’s largest share of carbon emissions.
Chinese President Xi Jinping will not be in attendance, though Biden is expected to meet virtually with him by the end of the year.
Xi has not left China during the coronavirus pandemic, which Sullivan said was “largely” the Chinese leader’s reason for skipping the meetings.
Biden has said often that Western nations are in a race to compete with autocracies, but his struggle to land a deal that addresses his priorities highlights the challenge.
Speaking at the Economic Club in D.C. this week, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, confirmed the party’s clean electricity performance program would not feature in the party’s reconciliation package.
“That provision is not in the bill,” he said Tuesday.
Manchin instead favors tax incentives to accelerate the transition to zero-carbon energy sources.
“Glasgow is just a continuation of the fantasy the fantasy that began in 2009 when President Obama went to Copenhagen, and without any consent of Congress, without consensus among the American people, pledged that the rich countries of the world would give $100 billion per year, by 2020, to the poor countries for climate change purposes,” Groves said. “That’s a proven fantasy.”
He added, “Here we are in 2021, there has never been $100 billion put together, much less $100 billion per year.”
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Sullivan did outline one primary goal for the first multilateral summit this week.
“We do need the G-20 to ultimately, as I said at the top, cement progress at the end of the day and have leaders fully put their blessing on the global minimum tax,” he said.
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