GLASGOW, Scotland — “It is not a secret that COP26 is a failure.” So said 18-year-old Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg in a speech here in Glasgow, Scotland, site of the 26th annual United Nations conference of parties (COP) on climate change. She’s not wrong, although few (if any) attending the global confab will openly admit it.
After all, how can an international conference on reducing carbon dioxide emissions be considered a “success” when the leader of the world’s largest emitter — China’s President Xi Jinping — blew off the two-week meeting altogether, while the leaders who did attend showed up in 118 fuel-guzzling private jets?
COP26 has turned out to be FLOP26, and that’s not a bad thing. Greta put it best: “Net zero, blah, blah, blah. Climate neutral, blah, blah, blah. This is all we hear from our so-called leaders—words, words that sound great but so far, has led to no action or hopes and dreams. Empty words and promises.”
For the sake of the U.S. economy and the environment, it’s a good thing Greta is right about COP26. But the incessant “blah, blah, blah” by President Biden (and former President Obama, who made a surprise appearance in Glasgow to lump in the Republican Party with China and Russia) comes at a cost: American credibility on the world stage.
At the 2009 COP15 in Denmark, Obama was the Blah-Blah-Blaher-in-Chief. He proudly trumpeted the Copenhagen Accord, an agreement that pledged to raise $100 billion every year until 2020 to fight climate change in poor countries around the world. Yet here we are, more than a decade later, and the United States and the other “wealthy” nations of the world have yet to raise the first $100 billion.
Don’t get me wrong. An annual $100 billion wealth transfer is a bad idea — an open invitation to massive waste, fraud, and abuse by corrupt leaders. But the fact that Obama was naive enough to agree to it in the first place is what is damaging to the United States.
U.S. presidents making international commitments they cannot deliver upon is the true danger of attending these global climate change conferences. American progressives drone on and on about U.S. image around the world, but don’t blink when their favored presidents make international promises they can’t keep.
In 2015, Obama traveled to Paris for COP21, where he gave new assurances. There, he committed to major reductions in U.S. carbon emissions, which he would attain through burdensome regulations such as the “Clean Power Plan” and other measures.
Again, this turned out to be a promise he couldn’t keep. Why? Because through legal challenges and petitioning their congressional representatives, U.S. citizens have a say in how they will be regulated. And U.S. citizens said, “No.”
The ink on Obama’s Clean Power Plan hadn’t dried before 29 states sued to prevent the regulation from going into effect. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed with the states and stayed enforcement of Obama’s plan, which then died on the vine.
President Trump did not share his predecessor’s zeal for unrealistic international climate pacts, so he withdrew from the Paris Agreement, effectively extinguishing all of Mr. Obama’s climate promises for the length of Trump’s presidency.
The lesson? Presidents should not make promises internationally that lack sufficient domestic support. Has President Biden learned that lesson? No.
On his first day in office, Biden rejoined the Paris Agreement. Shortly thereafter, he followed up with his own set of commitments, called a “nationally determined contribution” (NDC). Like Obama’s NDC, Biden’s is laden with untested regulatory measures, funding promises, and other proposals that lack bipartisan support.
Biden’s commitments are bound to fall as flat as Obama’s. And it will come as no surprise to the “international community.” They’ve heard all that before.