The United States and the Paris Agreement

Under Trump’s administration, The United States was the first country to leave The Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Vanshika Dhyani gives insight into what this agreement entails and what it would gain from the USA rejoining.

Signed on Earth Day 2016, The Paris Agreement is the climate action plan to use environment-friendly measures in order to minimise the increase in global temperatures. According to its makers, The Paris Agreement aims “to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.” Climate activists have drawn up a plan for 20/20/20 targets that will ensure a 20% expansion in the market share of renewable energy, a 20% upsurge in energy efficiency, along with a 20% cut back on CO2 emissions.

Although the Paris Agreement was conceived in 2015 during the United Nations Climate Change Conference, the 12-paged agreement went live on 22 April 2016, in New York and was signed by 174 countries. It was formally put into action on 4 November 2016, as it was designed so that it could only be initiated once it was signed by “at least 55 countries which together represent at least 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.” 

On the fulcrum of the Agreement rests the ambition of succeeding at producing “net zero emissions” from 2050 to 2100. The participating members have agreed “to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century.” Furthermore, the terms of the Agreement dictate that developing countries receive financial aid from developed ones in order to level with the rest of the world in its fight against global warming. 

The agreement highlights the following goals:

Long-Term Temperature Goal: to curb the increase in global temperature judiciously below 2 degrees Celsius, while working towards restricting the inflation to 1.5 degrees.

Global Peaking And 'Climate Neutrality': to establish stability between carbon emission and absorption, and to lay the foundation for a system where global greenhouse gas emissions are nullified by carbon sequestration.

Finance, technology and capacity-building support: to finance and promote the use of clean and sustainable living to achieve a climate-resilient environment. 

Climate change education, training, public awareness, public participation and public access to information: to empower citizens with the working of climate-safe technology and renewable energy

The specifics of The Agreement dictated that the earliest a country could leave the agreement was November 4, 2020, a day after the US presidential election. As the world sat in anticipation, in the chaos of disease and democracy, Trump quit the agreement

When President Donald Trump ran his first presidential campaign in 2016 he deemed the Agreement as “unfair” and assured his supporters that he would exit if elected. As promised, the Trump administration formally applied to withdraw from the Paris Agreement in August 2017. The specifics of The Agreement dictated that the earliest a country could leave the agreement was November 4, 2020—a day after the US presidential election. As the world sat in anticipation, in the chaos of disease and democracy, Trump quit the agreement. The news was followed by President-Elect Joe Biden’s tweet: “Today, the Trump Administration officially left the Paris Climate Agreement. And in exactly 77 days, a Biden Administration will rejoin it.” The outgoing President defended his stance at the G20 summit commenting that; “the Paris accord was not designed to save the environment. It was designed to kill the American economy.”

The current administration has been keen on abolishing the country’s environment that is responsible for providing the citizens with clean and safe surroundings. Since the beginning of the term, the Trump administration has worked actively to undo various measures for climate protection. For instance, the Clean Power Plan—an initiative by the Obama administration—was dismantled and replaced by an inadequate, poorly regulated scheme with weaker restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, the regulations on restricting blazing methane in public areas and capping methane emissions have been eased.

Climate action will see better days under the Biden administration. Not only did the future President announce that America will be re-joining the Paris Climate Accord but he also pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Biden was one of the first people to advocate climate justice, he introduced the first climate change bill back in 1986. Although the bill flat-lined in the senate that year, he returned in 1987 with the Global Climate Protection Act which was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. He spoke openly about his views on climate change during the Democratic primaries as well as the Presidential debates. 

The USA re-entering the Paris Agreement will be a game-changer seeing that it is the world’s largest economy. The number of participating members upholding their side of the Agreement will result in global clean energy. Additionally, it will create a new job market for renewable energy. The upsurge in demand for solar and wind energy will be directly proportional to economic growth.