Trump casts shadow over Glasgow climate change negotiations

·Senior Climate Editor
·3 min read

GLASGOW, Scotland — Democrats from the Biden administration and Congress have been in the unusual position at the U.N. Climate Change Conference of taking the blame for the actions of their archnemesis, former President Donald Trump, in public — and in private as well, Yahoo News has learned.

In a private meeting between the Senate delegation and China’s special climate envoy Xie Zhenhua, Xie chastised the U.S. repeatedly for Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 Paris Agreement.

“I sat down with the Chinese this morning. I thought that was an interesting exchange,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., told Yahoo News on Saturday afternoon. “They did not spare their criticism of Donald Trump. [They] said his withdrawal from the Paris Agreement was a very bad development for the world.”

“They said that twice. I think it was very pointed,” Durbin added. “I think they were pointing to the unpredictability of a democratic process.”

Dick Durbin
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

Depending on which party has occupied the White House over the last nine years, the United States has oscillated widely in its climate policies — much to the frustration of its negotiating partners.

“[Xie] said, ‘Unfortunately, Trump’s withdrawal [was] a huge mistake,'” Durbin recounted, reading the quote directly from his notes of the meeting. “'If Trump had not withdrawn from Paris, we’d have a much better world today.'”

From the first public remarks at COP26 by President Biden and climate envoy John Kerry, in which they expressed regret that the United States withdrew from the Paris Agreement during Trump’s tenure, Democrats who support international cooperation to address climate change have had to deal with representing a nation that had completely abandoned the whole process until Biden was inaugurated in January.

“I guess I shouldn’t apologize, but I do apologize for the fact the United States, the last administration, pulled out of the Paris accords and put us sort of behind the eight ball a little bit,” Biden said in his address on the first day of the conference.

Donald Trump
Former President Donald Trump at a rally in Iowa last month. (Rachel Mummey/Reuters)

The next day, in remarks to the COP26 subgroup of nations with a special concern about the health of the oceans, Kerry said he regrets his nation’s temporary withdrawal.

The negotiations in Glasgow are set to produce a successor to the Paris Agreement with the goal of keeping global temperatures from surpassing 1.5°C of rise above preindustrial levels.

Previous Republican presidents such as George W. Bush avoided taking action to combat climate change but broadly accepted climate science and participated in the global climate negotiation process. Trump’s total rejection of climate science and his abdication of any U.S. role in climate diplomacy continue to weaken the U.S. negotiating position because other nations are keenly aware that Trump, or a Republican of his type, could succeed Biden and withdraw the U.S. from agreements signed in Glasgow.

In his own address to COP26 on Monday, former President Barack Obama raised the subject as well. “Some of our progress stalled when my successor decided to unilaterally pull out of the Paris Agreement in his first year in office. I wasn’t real happy about that,” Obama said.

It’s probably safe to assume that Obama and his fellow Democrats weren’t happy about being associated with Trump’s record on climate change either.

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