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Sen. Joe Manchin leaves the U.S. Capitol

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) enters his car after participating in a vote at the U.S. Capitol Building on December 14, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Manchin Internationally Reviled Over Climate Obstruction

"What the Americans do or don't do on climate will impact the world and it's incredible that this one coal lobbyist is holding things up."

Julia Conley

The threat Sen. Joe Manchin poses to the planet by refusing to back ambitious climate legislation has not gone unnoticed by people in parts of the world that are most at risk for destruction from global heating, according to new reporting.

As The Guardian reported Wednesday, the right-wing Democrat who represents West Virginia has gained infamy in the Global South, including in the Marshall Islands, where 96% of the capital city of Majuro is at risk for frequent flooding due to rising sea levels.

"I've been following the situation closely," Tina Stege, climate envoy for the islands, told The Guardian regarding negotiations in the U.S. over the Build Back Better Act, which have been stalled for weeks due to Manchin's objections. "We have to halve emissions in this decade and can't do it without strong, immediate action by the U.S."

"Joe Manchin is going to go down in history for dooming climate action if this goes on."

Manchin ultimately said last month that the extension of the expanded Child Tax Credit for more than 35 million middle- and lower-income families was what kept him from supporting the $1.75 trillion investment in climate action and social spending, but he has also spent the past year demanding that the Democratic Party weaken the package's climate provisions.

In October, Manchin pressured the party to remove the Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP) from the Build Back Better Act, eliminating a provision which would have rewarded utility companies that transition from burning fossil fuels to using renewable energy sources. The CEPP would "get us most of the way to the national target of 80% [renewable energy] by 2030," according to independent research firm the Rhodium Group.

That same month, the senator also demanded Democrats remove from the legislation a methane fee for oil and gas companies.

Without legislation requiring the U.S. to slash its fossil fuel emissions, Stege told The Guardian, "the outcomes for countries like mine are unthinkable."

In Bangladesh, where one in every seven people are expected to become climate refugees by 2050 if planet-heating emissions are not drastically reduced, the West Virginia lawmaker is well-known among the general public.

"If you talk to the average citizen in Dhaka, they will know who Joe Manchin is," Saleemul Huq, director of the International Center for Climate Change and Development (ICCCD), told The Guardian, calling the senator a "coal lobbyist."

Manchin is the founder of Enersystems, a coal brokerage firm that's now owned by his son and which has paid the senator $5 million over the past decade according to financial disclosure forms.

"What the Americans do or don't do on climate will impact the world and it's incredible that this one coal lobbyist is holding things up," Huq told The Guardian. "It will cause very bad consequences for us in Bangladesh, unfortunately."

Rising sea levels, drought, landslides, and flooding are just some of the climate impacts that are already displacing people in low-lying Bangladesh, and coastal drinking water has also been contaminated through salinization driven by sea level rise, according to the Environmental Justice Foundation.

That contamination has left "the 33 million people who rely on such resources vulnerable to health problems such as pre-eclampsia during pregnancy, acute respiratory infections, and skin diseases."

"In failing to take action on climate (again), we are literally dooming the global population," tweeted grassroots group Young Americans in response to The Guardian's reporting, demanding that Manchin "deliver on climate."

In the U.S., Manchin's actions and connections to the coal industry have led climate campaigners to condemn him as a "fossil-fueled sociopath."

"The reasons for which Manchin claims he does not support the Build Back Better Act don't add up. West Virginians support the legislation," Greenpeace USA climate campaign director Janet Redman said last month. "At the end of the day, Manchin cares less about his constituents than he does about the fossil fuel industry."

In addition to communities in the Global South, The Guardian highlighted international headlines that have focused in recent months on Manchin's ties to the fossil fuel industry and his refusal to back legislation to rein in coal, oil, and gas companies, even as the effects of the climate emergency are made apparent by deadly flooding, heatwaves, and wildfires in the U.S. and abroad. 

Italian outlet La Repubblica accused Manchin of "betraying" President Joe Biden, while Argentinian newspaper Clarín described him as a "tycoon with ties to the mining structure of West Virginia."

Biden said last week that some provisions in the Build Back Better Act may still be able to pass in Congress, and suggested this week that he may focus on passing climate provisions separately.  

Manchin has claimed "there's a lot of areas in climate," but insists that "you cannot eliminate your way to a cleaner environment," suggesting he's no more likely to support the far-reaching CEPP as standalone legislation than he was when it was included in the Build Back Better Act.

"Joe Manchin is going to go down in history for dooming climate action if this goes on," tweeted Vox reporter Rebecca Leber.

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