To the editor -- "I apologize for the way this process unfolded and I am deeply sorry."
So spoke President Alok Sharma, in closing the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. Failure was almost certainly a foregone conclusion when the United States arrived with little beyond rhetoric, having squandered a once-in-a-generation opportunity for domestic policy establishing stringent automobile emission standards, and mandated phaseout of coal-generated electricity.
Both were originally part of the Build Back Better bill pushed by President Biden and supported by large majorities of Democrats in both Houses. But those measures were effectively vetoed by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., whose fortune, both personal and political, is tied directly to the coal industry.
Had concrete measures like those been brought to Glasgow, they would have signaled to the world that the U.S., the richest of the rich, was back, and was for the first time serious about providing leadership on climate action. Instead, what is signaled is that the corrupt influence of one senator can materially shape globally important actions.
Unfortunately, the real message sent is that in the U.S., it is still business as usual, and that the fossil fuel industry still calls the shots.