How Boris Johnson can build bridges with Joe Biden on climate change – Scotsman comment

US President-elect Joe Biden’s election win over Donald Trump restores the title of ‘Leader of the Free World’ to this great office.

Joe Biden has described climate change as an 'existential threat' (Picture: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Joe Biden has described climate change as an 'existential threat' (Picture: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Around the world, people will again look to the US for leadership on the great issues of the day, such as climate change. Those countries that work with America will win its friendship and more tangible benefits, so this can have a significant impact on their domestic politics.

This is especially true for the UK because of our pressing need to strike a trade deal with the US. Boris Johnson has taken considerable criticism for being too close to Trump but, in reality, he had little choice and Biden’s team should realise this, although it would not do any harm to hammer this home repeatedly.

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Climate change is an issue on which the UK is well-placed to curry favour with the US. Before the election, Biden described it as the “number one issue facing humanity” and an “existential threat to humanity”. “Unchecked, it is going to actually bake this planet. This is not hyperbole. It’s real,” he said.

Fortunately, the UK has a relatively good record on climate change on the international stage. The world may not be doing enough, but the UK is in the leading pack of nations trying to do something.

Johnson has made some unfortunate remarks about global warming that have led some to doubt his seriousness on the issue. But in June this year, he warned that while the focus was “rightly” on the Covid pandemic “we cannot lose sight of the need to protect our people and our planet from the devastating threat of climate change and biodiversity loss if nothing is done”.

So there is scope for the UK to build bridges with the US on climate change, particularly at the Cop-26 summit in Glasgow next year. But Johnson should not think for a moment that fine talk will pull the wool over Biden’s eyes. The US administration has some of the best scientists in the world working on this issue and will not fall for that.

If he is serious, then action on climate change would be not just a “moral obligation”, as Biden has described it, for the UK, but also in its political interest. When these two combine, that creates a powerful force.

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