Biden recommits US to Paris climate accord
President Biden on Wednesday took action to have the U.S. rejoin the Paris climate accord, following through on a campaign pledge to recommit to the Obama-era agreement on his first day in office.
The move reverses former President Trump’s withdrawal from the pact. For several months, the U.S. was the only country in the world that wasn’t a party to the accord.
“A cry of survival comes from the planet itself, a cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear,” Biden said in his inaugural address, listing “a climate in crisis” as one of the many challenges facing the U.S.
Biden has described the renewed commitment as a down payment on his climate plan, which calls for putting the country on a path to net-zero emissions by 2050.
Rejoining takes little more than a letter from Biden, but the U.S. will be recommitting to the Paris agreement at a time when other countries have begun rolling out more ambitious climate goals.
Special envoy John Kerry will be leading much of the administration’s efforts, shepherding the U.S. through a United Nations conference set for November in Scotland, where countries will formally adopt more stringent climate commitments.
Ahead of the U.N. meeting, both the United Kingdom and the European Union have committed to reducing their emissions by 68 percent and 40 percent, respectively, below 1990 levels by 2030. The U.S. has not upped its commitments under the accord since former President Obama entered it in 2016.
Kerry has said reestablishing American leadership on climate change will be one of his top priorities.
Wednesday’s action puts Biden in sharp contrast with Trump, who complained the deal “disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries.”
But Biden sees the Paris climate accord as not only a moral imperative amid an existential crisis but also a way to boost a U.S. economy that has sagged during the coronavirus pandemic.
His climate plan calls for the electric sector to reach carbon neutrality first, by 2035. That effort would be accompanied by a massive investment in various clean energy technologies, a move Biden expects to create jobs and draw customers from around the world.
There are early signs that some in the business community share his vision linking climate change and opportunity.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has traditionally embraced more conservative approaches on climate change, applauded Biden’s move.
“The Chamber welcomes President Biden’s action to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement. It is critical that the United States restore its leadership role in international efforts to address the climate challenge,” Marty Durbin, president of the organization’s Global Energy Institute, said in a statement.
He added that the chamber looks forward to “engaging with the administration” as it crafts policies to help the U.S. reach its climate goals.
The American Petroleum Institute, which represents the oil and gas industry, also praised the move, saying it supports “the ambitions of the Paris Agreement” and plans to advocate for natural gas as a transition “toward cleaner fuels.”
Biden has pledged to significantly reduce U.S. reliance on fossil fuels, including natural gas.
Some Republican lawmakers, however, blasted the decision Wednesday and plan to introduce a resolution seeking Senate review.
“The Paris Agreement is a poorly negotiated, fatally flawed treaty that represents a bad deal for American families everywhere,” Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) said in a statement joined by five other lawmakers.
Biden’s order caps a lengthy process for Democrats who sought to keep the U.S. in the agreement, even under Trump.
A 2019 bill from Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) would have recommitted the U.S. to the treaty, but while the measure passed the House, it died in the GOP-lead Senate.
The first-day move from Biden was celebrated by environmental groups, including those that have pushed him to take aggressive action on climate change.
“After four years of wasted time and national embarrassment, we are ready for President Biden to reestablish the United States as a leader on addressing the climate crisis and help to drive progress and ambition faster and further than ever before,” the Sierra Club said in a statement.