November 9, 2020

United States Formally Leaves Global Climate Pact, But What’s Next?

As The Associated Press reported, on November 4 the United States government officially left the global climate pact known as the Paris Agreement, which was negotiated five years ago by President Barack Obama’s administration. President Donald Trump took the formal step of withdrawing from the agreement last year, but under United Nations rules, that action took a year to take effect.

Nearly 190 countries, including China, Japan, and the members of the European Union, remain part of the agreement, which aims to keep the increase in average temperatures worldwide “well below” two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to pre-industrial levels. The agreement requires countries to set their own voluntary targets for reducing greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. The only binding requirement is that nations have to accurately report on their efforts.

What happens now that it appears that a new administration will take over in January 2021?

As a candidate during the 2020 presidential campaign, Joe Biden pledged to reenter the agreement. According to the BBC and several other news outlets, it would be a relatively easy move. The BBC explained, “Under the rules, all that is required is a month’s notice” and the United States “should be back in the fold.”

A Biden administration could re-examine the United States’ pledges, however. The Obama administration’s plan to adhere to the agreement had called for cutting U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 26 percent to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. As Axios explained, a Biden administration would be likely to update those targets.