It was the arbitrarily-managed and whimsically-run Trump administration that mindlessly took out America from the Paris climate accord and facing a universal disapproval. The unilateral withdrawal badly rankled Americans encouraging Joe Biden to make rejoining the climate efforts as an important election campaign prop. Now America has again become part of the international agreement that aims at stopping the world from warming past a critical climate change threshold, a global average of 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.
The Biden administration is trying to make amends for the country’s standing among nations in the global fight against climate change after Trump made the United States the only nation to drop out of the accord. Biden administration made its anxieties about this issue manifest and showed its earnestness about curbing US greenhouse gas emissions and prodding other nations to do the same, repeatedly calling rising temperatures a crisis and an existential threat to civilisation. Hours after being sworn in, he sent a letter to the United Nations kick-starting the 30-day process for rejoining the landmark 2015 accord that had been brokered under his old boss, President Barack Obama.
Fulfilling that campaign promise amounts to a stark repudiation of Trump, who spent years disparaging the global scientific consensus that human activity is causing the planet to warm. Although the United States technically left the Paris accord for only 107 days, Biden’s to-do list is lengthy. The administration plans to ratchet up the country’s own commitments to reducing emissions while pressing emerging economies such as China and India to curtail construction of coal-fired plants and Brazil to preserve more of the Amazon. At the same time, Biden will have to contend with a deeply divided Congress and other competing factions at home as his administration crafts a regulatory and legislative agenda for cutting emissions.
The Biden administration is reentering the agreement with plenty of pomp as John Kerry, Biden’s special climate envoy, will join the Italian and British ambassadors to discuss ways of working together and the White House is planning to host a broader summit of presidents and prime ministers on 22 April to mark Earth Day. All of that is prelude to a UN climate conference in Scotland in November, where world leaders will be expected to arrive with more ambitious climate pledges. Existing commitments to cut emissions are considered woefully inadequate to forestall dangerous warming that is already evident around the world in the form of wildfires, drought, melting glaciers, loss of species, coastal flooding and other extreme weather.
Anticipating America’s renewed interest in climate-related policies, China has pledged to reach net zero emissions by 2060. Biden has kicked off the process of setting a new national goal for cutting emissions that is more ambitious than Obama’s target of slashing carbon emissions by about a quarter below 2005 levels by 2025 but it is also pointed out that the United States is at risk of missing even that goal as Trump eased regulations that would have reined in carbon pollution. In this context, the European Climate Foundation is of the view that all countries need to ramp up their emissions-cutting goals ahead of the summit and the United States especially must make a bold new promise. The scientific research in this respect indicates that a target of at least 50 per cent greenhouse gas cuts on 2005 levels by 2030, ideally more, are required to be attained. Many climate-related organisations are pressing the Biden administration to set that 2030 goal as already four years have been lost.
In the wake of Trump’s decision to leave the Paris agreement, many cities, corporations, universities, nonprofit groups and some states kicked off their own efforts to reduce their carbon footprints and keep the country on track. The reason is simple as they understand fighting climate change strengthens the economy and improves people’s health.” California announced plans to phase out sales of new gasoline-powered cars by 2035 while New York has laws on the books aiming to produce 100 per cent zero-emission electricity by 2040. It was also noted that coal plants had closed at an even faster clip under Trump than they did under Obama.
Yet there is only so much local governments can do on their own. To match whatever new Paris goals Biden sets, his administration has directed agencies to begin unraveling Trump’s environmental policies and is teeing up major infrastructure legislation that will aim to bolster clean power and electric cars.
The US re-entry into the global fight to combat climate change has been universally welcomed. Many developing countries however are of the view that the United States must help poorer and more vulnerable nations do the same and are urging the Biden administration to support the Green Climate Fund, a U.N. programme that helps developing nations with adaptation and mitigation projects. TW