The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Jean Su, +1 (415) 770-3187,

COP26 Summit Ends Without Biden Taking Crucial Action on Fossil Fuels

President Fails to Meet Demands of Climate Emergency, Address Loss and Damage


The United Nations climate summit ended in Glasgow today with the United States still failing to make crucial domestic and global commitments to address the climate emergency.

"We're in a five-alarm fire, but Biden refuses to use a firehose," said Jean Su, energy justice director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "President Biden can use his unique set of executive powers to stop fossil fuel project approvals and declare a climate emergency, but he isn't. Failing to act on fossil fuels is beyond climate denial, it's climate atrocity."

The COP26 final decision is the first time that the U.S. and other world leaders have acknowledged fossil fuels in the global climate treaty framework. However, the language was severely weakened to accelerate the phase-out of only "unabated" coal and "inefficient" fossil fuel subsidies, opening the door to false solutions like carbon capture that permit continued fossil fuel pollution and are often defined as "clean" technologies. The language fails to halt fossil fuels.

President Biden left the talks with important agreements to stop public finance of fossil fuels, halt deforestation in 2030 and cut 30% of methane emissions from oil and gas production and agriculture by 2030.

But the administration joined neither a global pact to end coal nor the groundbreaking Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance of nations vowing to phase out oil and gas. In fact, the administration plans to hold a massive oil and gas lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico next week.

The Biden administration also failed to commit to meaningful finance for adaptation and loss and damage incurred by vulnerable countries that contributed the least to the climate crisis.

"As the largest historic emitter of climate-heating pollution, the U.S. must reach into its deep pockets to pay its fair share to the people who suffer from a crisis they did little to create," Su said. "Paying that climate debt of loss and damage is a matter of fundamental justice. The U.S.'s blockage of loss and damage finance is a betrayal of the communities most impacted by the climate catastrophe."

Biden counts among his tremendous executive powers the ability to declare a national climate emergency. This would allow the president to reinstate the crude oil export ban and use military funds to deploy just and distributed energy systems in the communities most harmed by the fossil-fueled energy system.

The idea of emergency declarations to propel climate action is gaining steam. Swedish activist Greta Thunberg and youth from around the world filed a legal petition this week urging the U.N. secretary-general to declare a "system-wide climate emergency."

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.

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