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The U.S. is back in the Paris climate accord

The Paris Climate Agreement (PCA) is a legally binding international treaty, an agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It deals with actions to limit global warming and its related effects, as well as the adaptation of related policies and their economic ramifications. It was adopted by 196 Parties at the Conference of the Parties 21, in Paris, on the 12th of December 2015. The PCA was put into effect on the 4th of November 2016, marking a historic turning point for preventing the negative impacts of global warming. Of the very few countries that have not ratified the Agreement, the only major polluters are Iran, Turkey and Iraq.

The central goal of the Agreement is to reduce the high levels of global warming to less than two, ideally one and a half degrees Celsius, which would significantly reduce the risks of disastrous consequences of climate change for the environment and humanity as a whole. Undoubtedly, the PCA is a first-ever universal, binding agreement, which brings all nations into a common cause, defined by the principle of equity. That is, PCA member states have common but not identical responsibilities and capabilities, depending on different national circumstances. Equally important is that the Agreement provides a specific infrastructure for financial, technical and capacity-building support to the countries which need it, depending upon the fact that countries make commitments and, eventually, strengthen these commitments.

For the past few years, the U.S. has played a serious part in the events related to the Agreement. Former U. S. President Donald Trump, who strongly believes that climate change is a “hoax,” announced in June 2017 that the U.S. quit the Agreement, a decision that became official on the 4th of November 2020. Trump’s argument was based on the “unfairness” of the situation, claiming that India and China use fossil fuels while the U.S. had to curb its carbon. The withdrawal was interpreted as a part of a larger effort to tear apart decades of U.S. environmental policy and received massive worldwide criticism. Nonetheless, thousands of leaders across the United States managed to help cities keep the promise of the Agreement, which clearly reflects the willingness of the majority of Americans to support the Paris Accord.

Since the 19th of February 2021, an era of a new leadership towards a focused climate agenda arrived, once the U.S. re-joined the Paris Climate Agreement. Only hours after becoming the President, Joe Biden signed an executive order to countermand the exit of the U.S. from the Accord, showing his aspirations to confront the climate crisis. According to BBC’s environment correspondent Matt McGrath, Joe Biden’s plan to tackle climate change has been described as the most ambitious of any mainstream US presidential candidate yet. His target is even more ambitious than Obama’s, who meant to push emissions between 26 – 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. Biden strives for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and aims to make the United States a world leader in combating climate change.

U.S.’s re-entry into the Agreement offers hope for a more cooperative future world. The U.S. is the world’s second-largest emitter after China, and its engagement is critical for a successful reduction of pollution. The U.S. needs to rebuild its credibility after being out of the Accord for some time. Moreover, President Biden ordered federal agencies to address climate change in their decision-making and appointed devoted climate policy staff in many of these agencies. Renne Cho mentioned to the State of the Planet that such a whole-of-government approach was once only used in World War II; and as the U.S.’ climate envoy, John Kerry, warned, “international talks this year are the last, best hope of avoiding catastrophic global heating.”