What Lies Beyond the Paris Climate Deal for the US?

By Frank-Jürgen Richter

February 21, 2021

The Paris climate deal is a historic agreement that brings together 200 countries from around the world to tackle the threat of climate change. Key elements of this deal include: 

  • The need for countries to adopt measures in reducing domestic emissions while phasing out fossil fuel usage completely
  • Developed economies will need to support poorer nations by providing financial assistance, assist them by transferring technical knowhow in reducing emissions, and help in development of climate-related capacity building
  • Working together by meeting and reviewing each nation’s progress in their efforts towards controlling climate change, and ensuring global temperatures are maintained 1.5°C below pre-industrial levels.

According to Climate Action Tracker, an independent scientific global organization, current policies adopted by the countries may well miss this mark. Despite initiatives such as the Paris climate deal, global mean temperatures are expected to rise to 2.9°C above pre-industrial levels by 2100

US President Joe Biden’s administration brings hope – that the battle against climate change has not been lost. The climate change threat implies negative consequences for all of humanity and Horasis believes it will need a coordinated and collective effort, one that is both inclusive and sustainable over the long term. To this effect, we are organizing a one-day virtual event called the “Horasis Extraordinary Meeting on the United States of America”. Horasis is bringing global leaders together from politics, business, academia and media to find solutions to some of the 21st century’s most pressing concerns.

Two Different Views

Former US President Donald Trump announced his decision to exit from the Paris climate deal in 2017. The accord, meanwhile, became official in November 2020. Trump felt the conditions of the climate deal would affect his nation’s development as it would mean actively moving away from fossil fuel dependency. In simple terms, agreeing to the deal would inadvertently have meant huge losses for the fossil fuel industry. Meanwhile, fossil fuel production and usage account as being the largest emitter of greenhouse gases. 

The current Biden administration seems to have adopted a stance on the contrary, where they view climate change as a looming threat that must be addressed with urgency. On November 4, 2020, when the US officially exited the accord, Biden tweeted: “Today, the Trump Administration officially left the Paris Climate Agreement. And in exactly 77 days, a Biden Administration will rejoin it.” On his first day at the Oval Office, President Biden formally initiated the 30-day process to rejoin the Paris Agreement. This decision will take effect from February 19, 2021.

Paris Deal Vital for US

By rejoining the Paris agreement, the US has sent a strong signal to the world—and especially to its allies—that they can trust in America’s commitment towards collective threats. Interestingly, it was largely the efforts of the US that had culminated in the development of the Paris agreement. The US was then actively playing its role as the leader of the global order and it played a key part in influencing numerous other countries to also commit towards prioritizing on action against climate change. In rejoining the accord, the US has also exhibited its intent to restore frayed relationships with allies worldwide.

As of 2019, the US along with China, India, Russia, Japan, and the EU, accounted for 67% of the world’s total CO2 emissions from fossil fuels. Barring the US, these countries and the EU were already a part of the Paris accord. Additionally, it is obvious that with the US being the second largest CO2 emitter after China, its role in arresting climate change is indispensable. 

Rising CO2 and a changing climate have meant crop losses, food insecurity and entire populations being on the verge of being displaced. Its effects have been mostly felt by less affluent nations – ones that are already mired by several other predicaments. Even worse, its effects are most profound on the marginalized sections of society. Resolutions to climate change must be found, failing which there will be strong repercussions on global food security and it will only exacerbate existing inequalities.

What’s Next for US after the Paris Accord?

With the US now a participant in the Paris climate deal, it will need to actively invest in research and development of renewables and seek innovative ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This will also spur job creation in new avenues of the green economy, serving as a much-needed boon to a post pandemic economy. 

In a 2016 survey, as many as 7 out of 10 registered US voters believed the US should participate in the international agreement to curb global warming. And this opinion has since been made clear with the election of President Biden. But the new administration has a lot to do to recover lost ground.

Photo Caption: Melting glaciers in Antarctica. The US rejoining the Paris climate agreement is a positive sign for the world.