All eyes were on the world leaders at the COP26 talks – especially Boris Johnson and Joe Biden. However, what did two of the biggest leaders pledge and what does it mean for us? Emily Jackson explains all.

The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (known more commonly as COP26), began on the  31st October and ran for nearly 2 weeks, until the 13th November. Taking place in Glasgow, the eyes of the world were on the big leaders and how they will tackle the climate crisis currently engulfing the world.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US President Joe Biden were at the forefront of negotiations but, what actually happened?

The Absence of China and Russia

It did not go unnoticed that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping did not make an appearance at the climate change talks. Biden was not particularly fond of the two countries’ absence by stating that: “I think it has been a mistake, quite frankly, with respect to China, not showing up…The same way I would argue with Russia”. In comparison, Johnson was quite light with his reaction to the no-shows. For Johnson, this “doesn’t mean the Chinese are not engaging”. Johnson adds: “China has already made a substantial commitment…they’ve moved to net zero by the middle of the century”.

Both Biden and Johnson showed very different reactions to the absence of two of the biggest powers in the world; not just within climate change but, within international relations. Despite this, Johnson seems much more optimistic despite their no-show while Biden appears much more straight-forward and direct with his view.

What Did Biden Pledge?

Biden came to the COP26 talks with an undeniably huge pledge to cut global methane emissions by thirty percent by 2030. Methane is one of the most potent gases in our world today; also being responsible for a third of current warming from humans. Furthermore, in his COP26 closing remarks, Biden pitched his $1.75 trillion spending package in the battle against climate change. Speaking to other leaders, Biden called the fight against climate change “not just a moral imperative but an economic imperative as well”. Biden’s vision for tackling climate change focused largely on creating employment in his pledge. Stating that: “When I think of the climate crisis, I think of jobs. And that’s what the Build Back Better Framework will do for the American people.” It seems that Biden is not only making his mark at COP26 but, bringing lots of optimism for Americans.

What Did Johnson Pledge?

In his opening address, Johnson put forward his £3 billion initiative to help developing countries for five years. Within this financing, Johnson is “want[ing] to see the UK’s Green Industrial Revolution go global” and by doing this, it will help and kick-start developing nations in going greener for the future. Furthermore, the Prime Minister has also advocated for the UK aid-backed Private Infrastructure Development Group (PIDG) to commit more than £210 million in new investment; this is to also put forward an array of green-products within the developing countries. This initiative features electric vehicle manufacturing in India, solar power in Burkina Faso, Pakistan, Nepal, Chad and finally, green bonds within Vietnam. Compared to Biden, Johnson put forward a very internationally-based initiative. Is this to deflect the problems the UK are causing to the climate? Or, is Johnson just being incredibly generous and looking like a good player within the international game?

What Does This Mean For Us?

Both pledges seem incredibly optimistic and, from face-value, look incredibly appealing to anybody wanting to fight the climate crisis. However Biden, who travelled to and from Glasgow amongst an eighty-five car convoy and Johnson, who traveled by private jet back to London, seem to be eating their own words with their less than environmentally-friendly actions. With politicians, it is clear to see that actions speak louder than words and nothing applies more to this than the climate crisis. Even though I ask the question of “what does this mean for us?”, I don’t think it can be answered right now. The main thing we can do is see if their promises actually become a reality.


Article edited by Connor Wade – Politics Editor

Header designed by Olivia Smith – Head of Design


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