The U.S. Officially Rejoins Paris Agreement

Secretary of State John Kerry signs the Paris Agreement in 2016.

By Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer

On Friday, the U.S. officially rejoined the Paris Agreement on climate change. Just under one month into his term, President Biden has officially reversed one major element of Trump’s intended legacy, and climate officials across the globe are welcoming our nation back with open arms. Not only has the U.S. recommitted to the global fight against climate change, but the Biden administration also plans to resume its central role in the international effort by hosting a global climate summit this spring on Earth Day.

Why This Matters: The last four years proved to be a disaster for the climate. Even as record-breaking storms in the southeast and devastating wildfires in the west destroyed homes and lives, the Trump administration rolled back over 100 environmental regulations in an effort to empower environmentally destructive industries. Despite the COVID-19 epidemic significantly reducing the nation’s emissions, the United States is still way off track to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement.

  • According to ClimateActionTracker.org, the United States’ emissions are “critically insufficient,” the lowest rating, trailing countries like China, Germany, and the U.K.

Additionally, the pandemic delayed 2020 climate negotiations and impaired efficiency efforts across the globe. If the U.S. and other nations are unable to set a post-COVID plan into action, the world risks falling even further behind when emissions rise to pre-pandemic levels.

Open Arms

The President of the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference, Alok Sharma, is excited to welcome the U.S. back to the team. “The return of the US paves the way for climate action to run like a golden thread through US domestic and international policies,” he wrote in a CNN op-ed. Sharma said that he is excited to be working with John Kerry and Gina McCarthy, who will be leading much of the United States’ climate policy, calling them “formidable allies in the fight against climate change. Sharma also praised Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan, saying that he’s eager to see the administration prioritizing 30×30. “The mantra of building back better, building back greener is very much on the money,” he wrote.

But all international interactions aren’t expected to go so smoothly. The nation’s relationships with many countries, including the world’s largest carbon producer, China, declined under Trump. Experts say diplomacy will be crucial in meeting the goals of the agreement, and the U.S. has no time to waste when it comes to mending friendships.

On the Home Front

While there are much excitement and celebration surrounding the return, the U.S. has a lot of catching up to do. Supporters hope that President Biden and his climate team will be able to re-establish the U.S. as a leader in global climate action. Paul Bodnar, who worked on climate issues under the Obama Administration, said that “the massive crater of credibility we find ourselves in as a starting point is an opportunity, too.” Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is also eager to get to work. “Now, as momentous as our joining the Agreement was in 2016 — and as momentous as our rejoining is today — what we do in the coming weeks, months, and years is even more important,” he said.

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