Connecting to COP26 – View from Washington, D.C.

COP26 – The view from Washington, D.C.  from Mike Schmidt, Partner and Public Affairs practice head at FleishmanHillard Washington, D.C.


When President Biden hosted a climate summit with world leaders in April, the White House’s keyword was ‘ambition’ – pledging the United States would do more to reduce carbon emissions, while working to get other countries to do the same.

Whether by design or necessity (or both), ambition remains the United States’ watchword at COP26, even if long-term perspective seems a mismatch for the urgent action needed to limit warming and compel corporations to meet the goals they have set.

In his speech at COP26 yesterday, Biden called for a “decade of innovation and ambition to preserve our shared world”.

And John Kerry, Biden’s special envoy for climate, says the U.S. goal is to leave Glasgow “having raised global ambition very significantly and to be more on track to keep 1.5 degrees within reach.”

But another word – momentum – describes what is lacking when it comes to climate action.

Congress could not pass climate legislation before Biden left Washington, leaving a significant part of his climate policy in doubt. In addition, a major regulatory power may be in jeopardy.

The Supreme Court surprised many on Friday by agreeing to hear a challenge to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to mandate carbon reductions.

U.S. officials say there is indeed momentum. Kerry said when Biden took office few countries had committed to targets that keep 1.5 degrees in reach – and now governments representing about 65 percent of the world’s economic output have ambitious targets for the coming decade.

But this target setting and the pledges made by the United States are unlikely to be seen by the U.S. public as sufficient.

According to a new poll from NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist, six out of 10 Americans say the global community is doing too little to address climate change. This included 72 percent of Gen Zers and Millennials, 57 percent of Gen Xers and 54 percent of Baby Boomers.

This ‘Connecting to COP26’ series is brought to you by the FleishmanHillard Cop26 Unit as part of the COP26 Daily Digest. For more information, please contact the FleishmanHillard COP26 team.

Contact us