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Biden can claim successes at G-20, but not on climate change

President Joe Biden sought to project American leadership at a Group of 20 summit in Rome over the weekend as he highlighted an agreement on a global minimum corporate tax. But the world's richest countries failed to strengthen commitments to combat climate change.

(CN) — U.S. President Joe Biden came away from a summit of the world's wealthiest countries in Rome over the weekend with some wins, including agreement on a global minimum tax rate for corporations and an end to a trade war over steel and aluminum with the European Union, but it looks like a major deal on climate change will elude him.

Biden spent the weekend at a Group of 20 meeting where leaders from the world's wealthiest countries endorsed a global minimum tax rate of 15% for multinational corporations. In his first overseas trip in June, Biden and America's closest allies, meeting as the Group of Seven, touted the global corporate tax rate as the best way to ensure corporations pay their fair share in taxes.

On the sidelines to the G-20 meeting, Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced an end to a trade spat over steel and aluminum tariffs that were imposed by former President Donald Trump. The EU will be dropping retaliatory tariffs on some American goods, such as Harley Davidson motorcycles and Kentucky bourbons.

Besides dropping tariffs on European-made steel, the U.S. and EU said they will look at crafting a new trade deal to promote steel and aluminum produced by American and European mills as opposed to Chinese ones, which they said make cheap steel at plants that emit far too much pollution.

Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national security adviser, said the U.S.-EU steel deal will tackle both “the threat of climate change and the economic threat posed by unfair competition by China.”

“It shows that we can solve the climate crisis while at the same time better protecting our workers; that we don’t have to pick between climate or the economy – that the path to climate progress is through ensuring good jobs,” Sullivan said.

But it looks like Biden will return to Washington later this week without much to crow about when it comes to climate change, the big focus of both the G-20 meeting in Rome and a two-week United Nations climate change conference in Glasgow that began on Sunday. Biden and his team hoped to show leadership on climate change in Glasgow.

At a news conference on Sunday night, Biden blamed Russia and China for stymying progress on combatting global warming. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin opted to not attend either summit.

The hope is that the world's biggest polluters will agree to become so-called net zero by 2050, but China and Russia have both set 2060 as a deadline. Net zero is the definition for when a nation is not emitting more heat-trapping gases than it is keeping out of the atmosphere, such as by planting trees and using renewable energy.

“Not only Russia, but China, basically didn’t show up in terms of any commitments to deal with climate change,” Biden said. “And there’s a reason why people should be disappointed in that. I found it disappointing myself.”

As developing economies, Russia and China are resistant to go along with demands to quickly quit using fossil fuels. As one of the world's biggest producers of oil and gas, Russia's wealth is heavily dependent on fossil fuel production and China's phenomenal economic growth has used enormous amounts of fossil fuels. Also, China relies heavily on coal for its power plants.

Courthouse News reporter Cain Burdeau is based in the European Union.

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