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Climate change: Storm clouds gather after COP26

Climate change: Storm clouds gather after COP26

2021 was a momentous year for climate change.

As well as a host of extreme, destructive events influenced by rising temperatures, the past 12 months have seen unprecedented political engagement on the issue, culminating in the COP26 summit in Glasgow in November.

Progress was undoubtedly made and the overall thrust of the meeting was towards more rapid action on a whole host of measures to curb emissions.

But there are now growing concerns that this momentum may dissipate over the coming months.

The most grievous blow comes from the US.

Next move - China

The potential failure of President Biden to get his Build Back Better act through Congress would significantly impact the ability of the US to meet the tough climate targets that the White House has committed to.

It would also hugely affect the relatively unified approach to climate change on display among world leaders at COP26.

"Everything that Biden pledged, led to this relatively good atmosphere and a sense of momentum in Glasgow," said Dr Joanna Depledge, a fellow at the Cambridge Centre for Environment, Energy and Natural Resource Governance.

"But these were just promises, he needs to get the bill through Congress. And it's now looking increasingly dicey. He can do some things with executive orders, but that certainly isn't the kind of sustained institutional climate legislation change that we're really looking for."

"I think the situation to us, is critical."

The despair among many in the US over the possible failure of President Biden's bill will also have knock-on effects throughout the world. This will certainly be the case in China, a country smarting from the perception that it flexed its political muscle in Glasgow to get its way. Biden's political difficulties with the bill are seen as more evidence that the "West is declining".

Is the progress made in Glasgow in jeopardy from a rising tide of challenges in the year ahead?