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Biden has to make good on pledges he made at the U.N. climate summit

NOEL KING, HOST:

President Biden is back from the U.N. climate summit in Glasgow. He made pledges that the U.S. will cut emissions. Now he has to make good on them despite Congress holding up his existing agenda to fight climate change. As for Glasgow, the president had a pretty upbeat take on how it went.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: And by the way, I might note parenthetically - I can't think of many two days where more has been accomplished dealing with climate than these two days.

KING: NPR White House correspondent Scott Detrow was on that trip and flew back on Air Force One with the president. Good morning, Scott.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: I guess it's morning. Good morning.

KING: (Laughter) President Biden seems pretty happy with how this went. Did others at the conference seem to be in the same mood?

DETROW: Certainly, the other world leaders did. There was a lot of praise for new agreements and commitments. And look; there were some big agreements. Just to mention two, Biden worked really hard to get this agreement for a global methane pledge to cut emissions of that really potent greenhouse gas by 30% by the end of the decade. More than 100 countries have signed up onto that. That is a big deal. There was also a real agreement to stop deforestation. But look; the fact is emissions are so high, and warming is so far along that that's really not enough to do what needs to be done to keep climate change from really spiraling out of control. And there's been a lot of pessimism and anger from activists at the summit about that. I asked President Biden about that discrepancy at that press conference he held at the end of the trip yesterday.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

BIDEN: There's a reason for people to be worried. I'm worried. I'm worried if we don't continue to move forward and make the kind of progress we're now making that it's going to - I mean, we throw into jeopardy the prospect that we're going to be able to keep the temperature from rising above 1.5 degrees Celsius.

KING: Let me ask you about another thing that may worry Biden. He's one of those people who likes to meet other leaders face to face and negotiate.

DETROW: Yeah.

KING: There were some big players who just didn't show up in Glasgow. What did Biden say about the leaders who skipped it?

DETROW: Yeah. China is the world's biggest emitter right now and didn't have a presence at this conference. Biden talked a lot about that absence, criticizing it. Look; Biden has worked hard to try and match China's global influence and counter it. So certainly, China not being at the table is a positive when it comes to U.S. influence. Biden was really able to shape the agenda. But it is certainly bad for the global climate effort if China is not as aggressive as other countries at trying to scale back greenhouse gas emissions. Russia also wasn't there. Biden criticized Russia as well. And just to mention one other country that was there - India was there, made some promises to get net neutral by 2070. That's - you know, that's two decades later than many of the other large countries are promising. And of course, India has also not signed on to that big methane pledge that Biden has been touting at this conference.

KING: Let me ask you about what President Biden has to get done now. His climate measures are part of the 1.75 trillion package that has the Democratic Party split. How does he convince them to get on the same page?

DETROW: Look; we've been talking about this for months. And increasingly, the conversation's all about Joe Manchin. Biden started the trip with optimism and basically indicated this was close to a done deal, if not a done deal. Then, of course, Joe Manchin comes out, holds a press conference and makes it clear it is not a done deal and that he could walk away. So yesterday, Biden still sounded hopeful Manchin will come on board, if slightly less certain. One quick thing to flag, though - Senate Democrats did reach an agreement yesterday on language in this bill that would limit prescription drug increases for seniors. It's a popular idea, and Biden had campaigned on it, but there had been some holdouts in the caucus. So that's in the bill. But of course, the other thing that we're going to talk about going forward - this was a pretty bad night for Democrats in elections, and I think that will certainly scramble calculations as well with these tight margins in the House and Senate.

KING: NPR White House correspondent Scott Detrow. Thanks for your reporting over the past day, Scott. We really appreciate it.

DETROW: Thanks so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.