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How will Biden and the US rejoin the Paris Agreement?

No Plan B for our planet.

It is the fifth anniversary of the Paris Climate Agreement. At the same time, the global average temperature has risen around 1-degree celsius. It is time to speed up on climate action, especially for the United States.

The US President-Elect Joe Biden vows to rejoin the Paris Agreement on his first day of office on 20 January 2021. With the US back on track, all 197 signatories to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will have ratified the historic treaty.

This follows the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement on November 4th, 2020. The decision made it the first country in history to leave the Climate Agreement. It all started in 2017, when former U.S. President Donald Trump decided to “cease all implementation of the non-binding Paris Accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes.” However, the process took three years, because no country could give the notice to leave the Paris agreement until three years had passed after ratification.

What is the Paris Agreement?

The Paris Agreement is a legally binding treaty on climate change. It was adopted in Paris – hence the title – on December 12th, 2015. It came into force on 4th November 2016. The goal of the treaty is to limit global warming below 2°C to 1.5°C; compared to pre-industrial levels. It aims to prevent climate change’s worst effects. The Paris Agreement is a landmark in the multilateral climate change process, as it brings all of the world’s nations into one common cause – fighting climate change.

No Plan B - Paris Agreement
“No Plan B” during the Paris Climate Agreement conference in 2015.
Credit: Getty Images

Countries are aiming to cut their greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) rapidly, to reach carbon-neutrality by 2030. To reach this goal, each signatory is required to submit national plans, known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs), every five years to limit emissions. They must also regularly report on their climate actions and whether they are on track to meet their NDCs. Members of the treaty would set those targets voluntarily, as it is not legally binding.

With only ten years remaining on the Paris goal, and the environmental impact of 2020, governments have to implement their climate targets rapidly. As Trump exited the US from the Paris Climate Agreement, Biden will have a hard time to put the country back on track- the U.S. is the world’s second-largest emitter, accounting for 25% of global GHG emissions.

Here is an explanatory video on “The Paris Agreement for Climate Change” from WWF. Have a look!

Joe Biden on the road to pave a more sustainable America

After Greta Thunberg last year, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have together been named “Person of the Year” by Time Magazine. Why? Because the new presidency will give a boost to international climate action.

Biden integrated sustainability at the core of his presidential campaign: he already set out an ambitious plan to tackle the US’s GHG emissions. The easiest step is to reintegrating the Paris Climate Agreement. Once Biden sends a letter to the United Nations expressing an intent to rejoin, the U.S. will formally return after 30 days; he does not need Senate support to do so. A big challenge would be the adoption of a strategy to get the country on the track to reduce emissions after four years of loss to the pro-fossil fuel agenda.

Person of the year 2020 - Biden Time Cover
Person of the year 2020: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris
Credit: Time Cover

The Biden Administration has been called the most ambitious of any US administration yet, with a proposed $1.7 trillion investment into taking the U.S. to net-zero emissions by 2050. Biden states that it will contribute positively to the American economy and its workers. Then, Biden will hold a climate summit with the G-20, the world’s largest economies, within 100 days of entering office. The aim is to draft a mandatory standard for global businesses to measure and report the risks they face from climate change.

America will be back working with our partners around the world to ensure we realize those goals for the sake of our families and future generations.

Joe Biden – U.S. President Elect

Last weekend, the UN with France and U.K. hosted a “Climate Ambition Summit“, marking the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement, with 75 country leaders. The US were excluded from the discussion, alongside Australia, Brazil, Russia, Mexico and Saudi Arabia; as these countries failed to meet climate targets in line with the Paris Accord.

However, Biden made a written statement to confirm his intentions to rejoin the treaty. On this claim, António Guterres, the UN secretary-general, said: “It is a very important signal. We look forward to a very active US leadership in climate action from now on as US leadership is absolutely essential. The US is the largest economy in the world, it’s absolutely essential for our goals to be reached.”

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