Biden spoke at the opening of the COP26 U.N. climate summit on Monday, stressing the need for "action and solidarity" while also using the moment to "apologize" for the fact "the U.S., under the last administration," pulled out of the Paris accord.
"I guess I shouldn't apologize, but I do apologize for the fact that the United States under the last administration pulled out of the Paris agreement. That kind of put us behind the eight ball a bit," Biden said.
Beijing-backed news outlet the Global Times published a piece the following day that ridiculed Biden’s "noble" apology. The report highlighted the discord between American voters, noting some comments online from "netizens" who "cannot wait until 2024 when the Republican Party, or even Donald Trump himself, apologizes for Biden’s apology."
The report attempts to highlight the more controversial side of the climate change discussion in the U.S. and played up the differences between Biden and former President Donald Trump. Xu Liang, an associate professor at the School of International Relations of the Beijing International Studies University, claimed that such displays by American leaders showed "the declining U.S."
Meanwhile, Xi has been absent from the Group of 20 summit in Rome and this week's global climate talks in Scotland, drawing criticism from Biden and questions about China’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
China is the world’s biggest emitter of carbon dioxide and has pledged to begin reducing that output by 2030 and obtaining carbon neutrality by 2060. The U.S. and others have urged Beijing to make bigger commitments, but Xi's administration has strongly implied those will only come in exchange for political concessions.
Trump himself had seized on Biden’s comment, claiming that world leaders were "laughing" at Biden.
"We have never been thought of so poorly as we are right now, including the fact that the leaders of foreign countries, all of whom are at the top of their game, are laughing at Biden as he makes the rounds in Europe. So low and so bad for America. There has never been a time like it," Trump said in a statement.
However, some outlets, such as Axios, have instead argued that Biden’s comments were an acknowledgment that the U.S. will have a difficult time convincing other countries to follow its lead on climate issues after flip-flopping between directions with different administrations.
Those efforts might have paid off after 18 countries joined the U.S. and Canada in creating a "climate pledge" to stop public financing for fossil fuel projects abroad by the end of 2022.
All funds will be redirected towards clean energy spending instead, Reuters reported.