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Joe Manchin and Joe Biden

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) talks with then-Vice President Joe Biden in the Old Senate Chamber. (Photo: Tom Williams/Roll Call)

Intent on Appeasing Manchin, US Blocks G7 Progress on Phasing Out Coal

"Once again Joe Manchin is casting a heavy shadow."

Julia Conley

Monday brought fresh outrage among climate campaigners after the G7 Summit ended without a commitment to ending coal extraction in some of the world's richest countries.

Five of the seven delegations—all but the U.S. and Japan—supported phasing out coal by 2040, but as Politico reported, the Biden administration forced the group to steer clear of language in its final statement that would point to the end of coal. 

"The long arm of Joe Manchin reaches across the Atlantic," tweeted Politico editor Blake Hounsell.

The G7's final communiqué committed only to accelerating "the transition away from unabated coal capacity," with no end date, in an apparent bid to appease Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia—the nation's second largest coal producer—as President Joe Biden pushes the Senate to approve his infrastructure package.

Manchin has sparked fury among progressives in recent weeks by refusing to back the For the People Act, claiming the voting rights legislation is not sufficiently bipartisan despite its broad support among voters across the political spectrum. 

"Once again Joe Manchin is casting a heavy shadow," Alden Meyer, a senior associate at European environmental think tank E3G, told the New York Times.

Artist Price Garrison added angrily on social media, "We don't have any time left for this bullshit."

The International Energy Agency (IEA) said recently that global coal use must be cut in half during this decade in order to limit global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius and reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The G7 said in its final statement that it supports those goals—without backing the steps needed to achieve them due to the Biden administration's and Japan's refusal. 

"It's very disappointing," Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International, told the Times. "This was a moment when the G7 could have shown historic leadership, and instead they left a massive void."

In the U.S., evidence has emerged in recent years that Manchin's allegiance to coal is unpopular among a growing number of voters. A 2018 survey by the University of Michigan found that 46% of voters in states with coal mines supported phasing out coal-fired power plants, compared to 36% who opposed the plan.

More recently, as Common Dreams reported in April, the largest union representing coal miners said it would support a transition to renewable energy in the U.S. provided policymakers ensure there is a just transition with green jobs provided for workers and income support for those who go through periods of unemployment.

At the weekend summit, the U.S. did support a $2 billion fund to support new energy industries and a just transition in developing countries and a global infrastructure plan called Build Back Better World—but the Americans did not pledge any new funding to help poor countries mitigate the climate crisis and it was unclear how the infrastructure plan would be fully funded. 

"In the face of the perfect storm of planetary crises—climate, Covid, injustice, and ecosystem collapse—the world's richest democracies have responded with a plan to make a plan," Laurence Tubiana, CEO of the European Climate Foundation, told Politico.

The Biden administration seemed intent on contrasting its approach to the climate crisis with that of the previous administration, in which former President Donald Trump failed to even accept the scientific consensus that the Earth is growing warmer due to human activity.

"While the previous administration ignored the science and consequences of climate change, our administration has taken unprecedented actions to prioritize this on the global stage," Daleep Singh, deputy national security adviser, told the Times.

But U.S. progressives as well as leaders in the Global South were unimpressed with the results of the summit, with Pakistani climate minister Malik Amin Aslam calling the final statement a "huge disappointment."

"At the least, countries responsible for this inescapable crisis need to live up to their stated commitments, otherwise the climate negotiations could well end in futility," Aslam told the Times.

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