U.S. rejoins Paris Climate Agreement, creates further opportunity to combat climate change

By Emma Reilly

Elm Staff Writer

On Jan. 20, the United States initiated the process of rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement by way of executive order. President Biden’s decision to take action within hours of his administration reflects the significance and urgency of this change. 

Although it is only a small step towards establishing a climate-conscious nation, this action speaks volumes to the action-driven nature of the current administration. 

The Paris Climate Agreement — established by the Paris climate conference in Dec. 2015 — is an agreement between nations seeking to establish “a global framework to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming,” according to the European Union’s official website. 

The U.S. played a key role in the establishment of Paris Agreement in 2015. Despite this, former President Donald Trump took steps to withdraw the nation from the accord as early as June 2017. The U.S. is the only nation to have withdrawn from the agreement. 

In what CNN’s Kevin Liptak and Jim Acosta deemed “a woeful abandonment of U.S. leadership,” Trump reversed the country’s dedication to planet-saving emission reductions, transparency, and international cooperation. 

Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement had impacts on both a national and an international scale. 

“The United States having neglected or abdicated its role or responsibility in addressing climate change definitely had a negative impact on the kind of global motivation and pace of action on climate change,” NPR’s Shyla Raghav said. 

The reduction in global climate change action that resulted from the U.S.’s withdrawal highlights the merit of President Biden’s swift call to action. 

“Biden’s move to rejoin the Paris Agreement signals to the world that the U.S. is serious about addressing climate change again,” Nathan Rott with NPR said. 

By accepting the Paris Agreement, Biden reversed Trump’s maneuver and made headway on one of his bolder campaign promises. The Biden administration is striving to “lead the world in addressing the climate emergency,” according to the Biden-Harris campaign website. 

Re-entrance into the Paris accord, in tandem with the president’s recent revocation of the Keystone XL pipeline’s permit, indicate that this is an administration that will support its words with actions. And actions are an important component of change – especially when it comes to such relevant and pressing worldwide concern. 

“The window for meaningful action is now very narrow,” Dr. M. Sanjayan of Conservation International said in an interview with NPR’s Nathan Rott. “President Biden’s action … is certainly a step in the right direction.” 

By rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, the U.S. will once again commit itself to the accord’s goals. This includes the reduction of global warming to between 35.6- and 36.5-degrees Fahrenheit above the E.U.’s designated “pre-industrial levels.” 

As a member state, the U.S. agrees to pursue climate-conscious policy and legislation, aid developing countries affected by climate change, and strive for climate-neutrality. The U.S.’s involvement with the Paris Agreement will have a positive impact on the environment. But it won’t single-handedly solve the climate crisis. 

“Just returning to the Paris Agreement as signed back in 2015 will not meet the world’s climate needs, nor will it restore the United States to a position of global leadership on climate change,” Clark University professor and The Conversation contributor Edward Carr said. 

The Biden administration will have to demonstrate a serious commitment to addressing climate change in the coming months — and years — in order for this executive order to demonstrate anything beyond basic diplomacy. 

“In the short term, the benefits are primarily diplomatic. It’s no small thing to try and rebuild international standing for a country that … abruptly abandoned [the accord],” Colorado School of Mines professor and The Conversation contributor Morgan Brazilian said. 

“A return to Paris … without additional steps … will be seen as hollow and could further erode U.S. credibility,” Carr said. 

If the Biden administration continues to take action and follow up on the climate-related goals it purported throughout the campaign process, however, the presidency could prove itself as a catalyst for widespread positive change. 

By taking direct legislative action towards his goal — “ensuring the U.S. achieves a 100% clean energy economy and net-zero emissions no later than 2050,” according to his website — Biden has the chance to shape a presidency characterized by reliability and effectiveness.

Featured Photo caption: The Paris Climate Agreement, which the United States vacated during the Trump administration, was recently rejoined by President Trump and Vice President Harris. Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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