U.S. Formally Rejoins Paris Climate Agreement
In a shift away from former President Trump’s isolationist policies, U.S. President Joe Biden announced that the United States was recommitted to international multilateral engagement, including the Paris Climate Accords, during the virtual Munich Security Conference with the G7. According to CNN, just hours after he was sworn in on January 20, Biden signed an executive order that would begin the month-long process to re-enter the Paris agreement.
Biden also announced at the conference a pledge of $4 billion for global coronavirus vaccination efforts and the prospect of a nearly $2 trillion spending measure that could bolster both the U.S. and global economies, in addition to the United States’ renewed commitment to the Paris Climate Accords.
The Paris Climate Agreement was a vital step towards efforts to begin remedying the damage that climate change has caused. Most countries have signed on to the agreement, making it one of the most popular resolutions aimed at solving climate change. The agreement, according to CBS News, is meant to prevent the global average temperature from reaching a two-degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) increase compared to pre-industrial levels. To slow the warming, the 189 signatory countries agreed to finance programs and share resources with the goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. According to CNN, under the Obama administration, the U.S. had pledged to cut carbon emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. 2020 was originally meant to be the next marker for nations to increase their greenhouse gas emission pledges, but the COVID-19 pandemic postponed the climate negotiations to November.
Christiana Figueres, the former United Nations climate chief, explained to the Associated Press that the biggest concern when the U.S. left the Accords was that other countries would follow suit. While none did, t new concerns lie with the amount of damage done in the four years of inaction during Trump’s presidency. Although some local and state governments took action, they did so without the support or backing of the federal government.
Domestically, the reaction to Biden’s announcement has been mixed. Democratic leaders generally support America’s re-entry into the Accords. As reported by CNN, Secretary of State Tony Blinken promised that the U.S. would “waste no time in engaging our partners around the world to build our global resilience.”
However, Biden is already facing opposition from Republican leaders. According to the Associated Press, Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, the top Republican on the Senate energy panel, has criticized Biden for rejoining the Paris Accords. “Returning to the Paris climate agreement will raise Americans’ energy costs and won’t solve climate change. The Biden administration will set unworkable targets for the United States while China and Russia can continue with business as usual,” he tweeted.
Internationally, Biden’s announcement was well-received, albeit foreign leaders are expecting the U.S. to prove its commitment with action, according to the Associated Press. In particular, they are looking for the United States to announce its new 2030 target for cutting fossil fuel emissions, which, according to experts and scientists, are currently altering the Earth’s climate and worsening the extremes of drought, hurricanes, flooding and other natural disasters. Nate Hultman, an environmental studies professor at the University of Maryland, worked on the Obama administration’s official Paris goal. He expects a 2030 target of cutting carbon dioxide emissions between 40 and 50 percent from the 2005 baseline levels.
President Biden is committed to action, as seen in his remarks at the Munich Security Conference. According to The Washington Post, he emphasized that rejoining the Paris Accords and recommitting to international multilateral engagement is not enough. “We can no longer delay or do the bare minimum to address climate change,” Biden said. “This is a global, existential crisis, and we’ll all suffer — we’ll all suffer the consequences if we fail.”