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What you need to know about the upcoming U.N. global climate summit

What to expect at COP26 climate summit
What to expect at COP26 climate summit 07:00

President Donald Trump pulled out of the Paris Agreement. President Joe Biden rejoined on his first day in office. But Senate Democrats are still fighting over new climate legislation that would give Mr. Biden something to brag about as the U.S. attempts to reassert itself as a leader at next week's global climate summit. 

The countries that adopted the Paris Agreement in 2015 -- now nearly every country in the world except Iran, Iraq and Turkey -- are to meet every five years to update their ambitions. The summit was delayed last year because of the pandemic. 

This year, the goal is to prove that countries take the priorities seriously and are working on issues such as methane emission reduction, enacting a global carbon market and weaning countries off coal production. 

The actions of the U.S. delegation are under a microscope. 

America is historically the world's leading emitter of greenhouse gases and still the world's leading producer of fossil fuels. However, Mr. Biden and Senate Democrats are deadlocked trying to negotiate a deal that would invest hundreds of billions of dollars in climate policies. 

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin has opposed the price of the package, a clean electricity performance program and a carbon tax. Data shows that without those policies, the U.S. will fail to meet their goals of lower emissions and therefore global temperatures. 

Before the Paris Agreement, the global economy was on track to, by the year 2100, warm the planet at least 3.7 degrees Celsius above 1900's pre-industrial levels. Today, existing policies will lead to a 2.9-degree increase and announced targets would lessen the increase to 2.4 degrees — still hotter than the Paris Agreement's objective of less than 2 degrees warmer. 

The agreement has three main pillars that will be in focus at the summit. 

So-called nationally determined contributions are the targets countries set for lowering emissions. The goals are not legally binding, but each nation agreed to make their goals more ambitious every five years to eventually reach zero net emissions by 2050. 

Countries are meant to publicly declare their targets as a way to hold the world's greatest emitters accountable. In April, at a White House climate summit, Mr. Biden promised the U.S. would cut emissions at least in half by 2030. China, India and Brazil, the world's three largest emerging economies, have not yet announced updated targets. 

A second pillar is international climate financing. Signaling his administration's commitment to the idea, Mr. Biden announced in April that he would double U.S. aid sent to help developing countries to help them adapt to a green economy and avoid climate-related devastation. Mr. Biden doubled that commitment again last month while addressing the United Nations General Assembly -- a promise of $11.4 billion, which is in need of Congressional approval.  

The third pillar is borne by Climate Envoy John Kerry, who was Secretary of State in 2015 and vital in getting the Paris Agreement signed. Kerry has been travelling the world for the past 10 months meeting with world leaders on the climate crisis, vocalizing America's commitment to the issue and pressuring others to do the same. 

Domestically, Kerry has worked with the private sector to get corporations to agree to lowering their emissions, which could bolster America's reputation on a global stage as Congress lags. 

Capitol Hill climate negotiations are being watched closely by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.

"It is obvious that the position of the United States and its capacity to negotiate will be much bigger if all the commitments that are foreseen can be demonstrated as commitments that will be implemented," he told CBS News at a press conference last week.

"I hope that, one way or the other, the US will be able to come to Glasgow with sufficient credibility to increase its negotiating capacity, namely in discussion with some emerging economies," he said, encouraging Congress to pass the cleaner electricity performance program. 

While expectations for progress are extremely high for the summit, whether COP26 is a success may not be known for years, said Kaveh Guilanpour, vice president for international strategies at The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, a nonpartisan, nonprofit climate organization.

"Glasgow was never going to be a "Paris" moment where there would be a dramatic hammering of the gavel with an agreement being waved in air," he said. "COP26 is far more complicated and that makes it much harder to define what success means."

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