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Climate change

Biden’s new pact has echoes of Reagan

Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev signing a nuclear arms treaty in 1987. Bettmann/Getty Images

The “surprise” China-US pact on climate change at Cop26 has encouraging echoes of another moment of political theatre, says Matthew Knott in The Sydney Morning Herald. In Berlin 34 years ago, President Reagan urged his Russian counterpart, Mikhail Gorbachev, to “tear down this wall”. Although the Soviets responded angrily to this “war-mongering speech”, Gorbachev and Reagan were at the White House six months later, signing an epochal nuclear arms treaty. This March the Chinese and US governments tore strips off one another off at an “infamous” meeting in Alaska last March. President Biden also lashed out at China’s leader, Xi Jinping, for making “a big mistake” in swerving the Glasgow summit. Then, hey presto, we get the so-called Glasgow Declaration.

It’s a vindication of Biden’s decision to give a political heavyweight, John Kerry, a brief covering climate alone. That meant he didn’t get bogged down in trade and human-rights issues, over which the US and China are tearing lumps out of one another. And Kerry has worked hard, travelling to China twice and meeting his Chinese counterpart dozens of times in the lead-up to Glasgow. Yes, the announcement is woolly. But it offers renewed hope that Biden and Xi will be able to emulate Reagan and Gorbachev by co-operating on “the defining challenge of their age”.

Why it matters Two diametrically opposed views of Cop26 exist, say Susan Joy Hassol and Michael Mann in The Boston Globe: that the summit “brought either significant progress or just more hot air”. Both are true. What’s been secured so far clearly isn’t enough: each day’s pledges have “ratcheted down” projected global warming by just 0.1C. But it is progress. The most important thing is that we come out of the summit “still in the fight”.