The Paris Agreement at 5: What’s Next?

Graphic: Annabel Driussi for Our Daily Planet

This Saturday, December 12, the United Nations and the U.K. will host a Climate Ambitions Summit to commemorate the Paris Agreement’s fifth anniversary and encourage countries to commit to more ambitious actions. This week ODP will take a deep dive into the Paris Agreement — today we look at what lies ahead.

By Ashira Morris, ODP Contributing Writer

Tomorrow at 9 a.m. EST, the Climate Ambition Summit will begin. The Summit marks five years since the Paris Agreement and will be a moment for countries to announce improved climate plans for the next decade. The event will include speeches from co-hosts and partners, including United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, as well as heads of state from Fiji to Ethiopia to Kazakhstan. The program claims “there will be no space for general statements” — only new, ambitious commitments. It’s intended to show positive and showcase the countries who are making bold plans, a benchmark that some countries, including Australia and Brazil, didn’t meet

Why this Matters: The summit comes as the end of the COVID pandemic is on the horizon, creating a global impetus for countries to emerge from the past year with stronger climate plans than before. After the summit, the focus will shift to implementation — acting on the commitments. In the five years since Paris, progress has been “patchy at best,” wrote former president of the United Nations general assembly María Fernanda Espinosa in the Guardian. This next year, as the world emerges from the harrowing experience of 2020, there is a chance to build better, more resilient societies, to work toward a better future instead of simply returning to business as usual. 

Looking Ahead to the Biden Administration

Donald Trump, who officially removed the U.S. from the Paris Agreement earlier this year is still the head of state, so the U.S. won’t be sending a national leader. Instead, the Governors of Massachusetts and Michigan, and the Mayor of Los Angeles will represent American commitments to climate at the Summit. For the past four years, lots of energy was spent trying to stop or mitigate the Trump administration’s harmful anti-environment agenda. Cities and states also stepped up and took action when national leadership was working to prop up fossil fuels instead of investing in public health. Come January, that energy can be channeled into moving climate action forward and making President-Elect Biden’s promises of hitting net-zero by 2050 a reality. 

“Under the leadership of President-elect Joe Biden, the United States is ready to renew its pledge to the Paris Agreement and declare its strong commitment to solving the climate crisis,” said Representative and Chairwoman Kathy Castor in a statement. “As we turn the page on the Trump Administration, the days of mocking experts, endangering public health, and ignoring the need for climate action are over. Instead, the Biden administration will shepherd a new era of climate progress, as we endeavor to reduce pollution, protect our lands and ocean, and ensure clean air and water for communities across the nation.”

To Go Deeper:  You can watch the Summit live here.

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