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Evening Standard Comment: Boris’s White House climate challenge

·2-min read
 (Christian Adams)
(Christian Adams)

Warm smiles, photo ops and a powerful restatement of shared US-UK values — Lindsay Hoyle’s time with Nancy Pelosi at the G7 Speaker’s Summit in Chorley showed Boris Johnson how it can be done. But the Prime Minister’s meeting with the US President today at the White House is unlikely to prove so straightforward.

It has been a testing time for the transatlantic relationship, buffeted by the withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Biden administration’s continued concern about the UK’s commitment to the Good Friday Agreement.

Yet the Aukus agreement last week was evidence that, despite these bumps in the road, Britain and the United States remain implacable allies.

US presidents often come with foreign policy doctrines. Biden’s may not be a Kennedy-esque “bear any burden” but it is gradually coming to light.

The Afghan exit was clearly mishandled, but the strategic and intellectual force that underpins it was clear: the US is pivoting away from nation-building and belatedly towards great power competition with China.

Johnson faces his own challenges in New York. Hosting COP26 places a tremendous responsibility on Britain. He will want to demonstrate that our influence abroad has not been diminished by Brexit.

The Prime Minister needs to construct a sense of momentum leading up to the Glasgow summit, and that will require US support. Money is pivotal. Rich nations have already pledged to provide $100 billion — each year — to help poor countries battle climate change.

That figure is yet to be met. Covid-19 may have distracted governments, but the trillions rightly spent to fight it demonstrates that the money is there — what we need is the political will.

Climate change is made harder still to solve because it requires a truly global solution. No deal is possible without India, Russia or China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

President Xi Jinping has committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2060 with emissions peaking before 2030, but like so many countries, a detailed policy portfolio to meet these ambitions is urgent.

And the Chinese president is yet to commit to coming to Glasgow, having made the trip to Paris in 2015. The Aukus announcement will not have made relations warmer.

All this highfalutin diplomacy and talk of trillions can make COP26 feel distant, even if it is taking place in Scotland. But the decisions made now in its build-up, and the agreement we hope is struck in November, will affect each and every Londoner.

We need it to be a success.

Read More

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Boris Johnson celebrates Cop26 climate change summit as ‘a turning point for the world’

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Afghanistan and climate on the agenda as Johnson meets Biden at White House

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