Nature Wins in 2021: The US Rejoined The Paris Agreement

January 18, 2022

The White House

After officially withdrawing from the Paris Agreement in 2019, the United States rejoined the pact soon after the election of Joe Biden in 2021.

The Paris Agreement is an international treaty on climate change that was adopted during the United Nations Climate Change Conference in 2015. The agreement was negotiated by 196 countries and currently a total of 193 states are members of it.

The Paris Agreement’s major goals include the decrease of global temperature to below 2 °C (3.6 °F) above pre-industrial levels and the achievement of net-zero by the 2050s.

In 2019, under the presidency of Donald Trump, the United States officially withdrew from the Paris Agreement. In 2017, Trump claimed that the treaty was unfair to his country – the second largest emitter of CO2 in the world. According to the White House at that time, the United States  was paying the cost and bearing the burdens, while other member states were only taking advantage of the pact without paying anything in return.

Top Annual CO2 Emitting Countries, 2019

The US rejoined the Paris Agreement
Source: IEA Atlas of Energy

In February 2021, under the administration of President Joe Biden, the United States rejoined the Paris Agreement. Actually, reentering the pact was among the priorities of Biden who hours after his inauguration signed an executive order initiating a 30-day process to rejoin the agreement.

Tackling climate change was among the key components of Biden’s election campaign during which he made 46 climate action promises. A report published by the environmental group Evergreen recently analyzed the White House’s progress on climate change. The analysis concludes that while some visible improvement was made, President Biden’s administration could have done more. 

The report rates 10 pledges as “done”. This includes the reestablishment of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council, a move Biden initiated during his first week in office. Under the “great progress” category, Evergreen lists five commitments, including the minimization of the federal government’s carbon emissions and driving towards the usage of 100% clean energy and zero-emissions vehicles.

A total of 22 promises, like the efforts to update energy efficiency standards, which have been delayed mainly due to bureaucratic obstacles, are classified as achieving “some progress”. The other nine commitments are placed in the category “not enough progress”. They include Biden’s promise every federal infrastructure investment to take under consideration the effects of climate change and every public company to be required to disclose climate risks in their supply chains and operations.

The White House disputed Evergreen’s report, arguing that in the past year, the federal agencies have been aggressively tackling the climate crisis.

Overall, however, it is undeniable that the United States made some major steps in tackling the global climate crisis in 2021. 

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