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World leaders are gathering in Scotland for the U.N. Climate Summit


World leaders can say they're doing something about climate change. But can they do enough? That question hangs over a meeting of world leaders this week in Scotland, which is underway. A series of presidents and prime ministers are speaking to this meeting in Glasgow, and President Biden has just been speaking in the last few minutes. NPR's Dan Charles has been listening in. Hey there, Dan.


INSKEEP: What are you hearing?

CHARLES: Well, President Biden started in like many of the leaders this morning - this afternoon, saying that we confront this historic challenge and this meeting has to rise to that challenge. Here's the first thing he said.


PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: My Build Back Better framework will make historic investments in clean energy, the most significant investment to deal with the climate crisis that any advanced nation has made ever.

CHARLES: And there on that world stage, he basically made his case for the legislation that's pending in Congress. He was saying, this is our response; this is what we're doing in the United States. We will get it done. It was interesting. He didn't mention that it still is waiting to be approved by Congress.

INSKEEP: Yeah, I was noticing he had to speak in the future tense. My Build Back Better agenda will do this, not is doing this because the measure is not passed. Neither of the two major measures are passed in the way that he had hoped would be happening by now, an infrastructure bill and another measure that's been called a human infrastructure bill, but also was supposed to include a lot more about climate change than the current version of it does. Where does that place the United States in relation to other countries?

CHARLES: Well, it's similar, actually, to what's happening in a lot of countries. The situation is things are changing. But at the same time, they're not changing enough to meet the goal that the world's countries set, you know, for themselves. Over the weekend, the world's biggest economic powers, the so-called G-20, met in Rome. Coming out of that meeting, Secretary of State John Kerry was saying there had been so much progress. A bunch of countries committed to the goal of cutting back greenhouse emissions enough to keep the world from warming up more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.


JOHN KERRY: When you get major industrial nations, the largest economies of the world, more than half of them saying we're on board to hit 1.5 degrees, that is a giant step forward. And it leaves me with optimism that we can still close the gap with some of these other countries - that we're working on that.

CHARLES: He talked about every country in the G-20 now has agreed to cut off financing for coal-burning power plants in other countries. That is a real change.

INSKEEP: And it certainly is. If China is exporting coal-fired power plants as it has in recent years, that makes a difference, and it makes a difference to stop that. But to get back to the initial question, is it enough?

CHARLES: It is not enough. Some countries, like the U.S., are talking a good game, saying we want to move really quickly, as President Biden said, to get off fossil fuels, get net greenhouse gas emissions down to zero within 30 years. But as we pointed out, they have not yet managed to deliver policies that would get them to that goal. It's politically tough, technologically it's a big job. And then there are other countries who say that goal itself isn't right for us. We're not ready to move that fast. At a press conference yesterday, President Biden called out some of those countries by name.


BIDEN: I think you're going to see we've made significant progress, and more has to be done. But it's going to require us to continue to focus on what China's not doing, what Russia's not doing and what Saudi Arabia's not doing.

CHARLES: There are other countries, too. He didn't mention India, for instance - quite a few other developing countries.

INSKEEP: In his speech in the last few minutes, the president has said the world's eyes are upon us. History's eyes are upon us. And this is the decade when we have to do something. Why would some countries be reluctant to step up?

CHARLES: Well, some of them are saying, we don't have the money to pay for all these new cleaner power plants and new transportation systems and so forth, which gets to another big issue here at this climate summit in Glasgow. Wealthier companies have promised to deliver at least $100 billion a year to poorer countries to help them cope with climate change and also build these new energy systems. It's kind of a down payment on a much larger transfer of funds that will be necessary to kind of transform economies. People are talking trillions of dollars. That money has not yet appeared. That is on the agenda here in Glasgow, how to fix that.

INSKEEP: NPR's Dan Charles is in Glasgow, Scotland. Dan, thanks for your reporting.

CHARLES: Nice to be here. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Dan Charles is NPR's food and agriculture correspondent.