Crossing the Atlantic Ocean a few days ago aboard Air Force One for two international summits, one of President Biden’s main collaborators seemed delighted that China and Russia were not present.
Without them it will be “the United States and Europe together leading the bus on important global issues,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters.
But even though they are behind the wheel, it has been a bumpy ride. Despite Biden’s success in appeasing differences with allies like France and the European Union, new rifts are spreading across the world, undermining the unity needed to resolve current crises and prevent future ones.
Some of those gaps appeared to widen at the G-20 summit in Rome, where Biden spent the last two days before traveling to Glasgow, Scotland on Monday, where he will spend two more at the COP26 conference on change. climate.
“The world is increasingly divided,” said Thomas Wright, director of the Center on the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution. “We see this divergence between a constellation of authoritarian countries and a constellation of democratic countries. “
He said rivalries between powerful nations, especially the United States and China, have created a “negative synergy” where global problems intensify but there is less cooperation to resolve them.
Developing countries are running out of patience with slow COVID-19 vaccine delivery, and world leaders have made few new commitments to speed up the process. Rich countries appear to be emerging from the pandemic while others continue to suffer the economic backlash.
The G-20, which brings together the world’s most powerful countries to discuss economic and other issues, has also failed to generate the desired momentum towards COP26, undermining hopes of success in preventing the most catastrophic effects. of global warming.
Executives were only able to muster a pledge to achieve carbon neutrality by mid-century and end funding for coal-fired power plants abroad.
The joint statement failed to accelerate the fight against climate change because it only echoed commitments already made by China, the world’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, earlier this year.
At a press conference on Sunday, Biden blamed Russia and China for the lack of progress. He said they “have not come forward in terms of commitments to address climate change. There is a reason why people should feel disappointed with this. I found this disappointing myself.
Inaction contradicted the urgent warnings that characterized the summit, which was held in a convention center known as “the cloud,” where a swollen white structure hangs in a rectangular glass building.
“Either we act now, face the costs of the transition and succeed,” said Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, who hosted the G-20, “or we delay action and pay a much higher price later. , and we fail “.
The disappointing joint statement appeared to respond to fears expressed by António Guterres, the UN secretary general, before the summit began.
“Let’s be clear – there is a serious risk that Glasgow will not deliver,” he said on Friday. “Several recent climate announcements could leave the impression of a rosier picture. Unfortunately, this is an illusion.
Climate progress is being compromised, in part, by a global energy crisis. A senior administration official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing negotiations, said Biden used the G-20 summit to push oil-rich countries to increase production to reduce the rise prices.
The official said Biden “stressed that we need to see an adequate supply of energy right now as we make the long-term transition to a carbon-free economy.”
U.S. officials had tried to downplay expectations that the G-20 would lead to progress on the pandemic. They described a conference Biden hosted at the United Nations General Assembly in September, in which the United States stepped up its own commitments and got more from other countries, as greater development.
But the lack of progress on vaccine distribution has remained a notable absence at a summit as large as the G-20, which has generally aspired to serve as a platform for global cooperation.
The People’s Vaccine, an international coalition of advocacy organizations, had called on countries to suspend intellectual property rights to make it easier to manufacture more doses and tests globally. No such commitment has been made.
J. Stephen Morrison, director of the Global Health Policy Center at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the world should administer 2 billion doses over the next two months to meet its goal of immunizing 40% of each country’s population . by the end of the year. He said the G-20 had failed to produce a “concrete action plan”.
“The pandemic will change in nature and mainly affect the poorest, least equipped and most disadvantaged countries,” he said. “It will be very difficult to avoid the arrival of new variants. “
Additionally, there remains lingering friction over how the pandemic started in China. President Xi, who delivered a virtual address, said that “the stigma of the virus and the politicization of the search for its origins go against the spirit of solidarity against the pandemic.”
The U.S. intelligence community released a report on Friday saying it was unable to determine whether the coronavirus started with a lab accident or animal-to-human transmission, and blamed the uncertainty in part to China’s refusal to cooperate with international investigations.
Despite the global unrest, Biden scored important victories on economic issues at the summit.
His administration helped forge a sweeping deal to implement a global minimum tax, which aims to prevent companies from seeking tax shelters abroad. The deal has been approved by G-20 attendees and is expected to go into effect in 2023. It is uncertain whether Biden can push such a tax through Congress.
Biden also resolved a trade dispute with the European Union that began under the Trump administration. As part of the agreement, the United States will implement a quota system under which tariffs will be levied on imports of metals in excess of a certain amount.
The EU, meanwhile, will drop retaliatory tariffs on US imports of whiskey, motorcycles and other items.
“Today is a testament to the power of American diplomacy and strong partnerships to deliver tangible benefits to American workers and middle-class families in America,” Biden said in an appearance Sunday with the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen.