The Slatest

The U.S. Is Now Officially Back in the Paris Agreement on Climate Change

The skyline of down town Los Angeles, as seen from a nearby hilltop, is covered in hazy midday smog.
Downtown Los Angeles covered in midday smog on Nov. 5, 2019, the same day Trump began the Paris Agreement withdrawal process. Mario Tama/Getty Images

The U.S. officially rejoined the Paris Agreement on climate change Friday, three-and-a-half years after former President Trump announced the country’s withdrawal from the global commitment to emissions reduction in an effort to stave of climate change. Trump initiated the year-long withdrawal process in November 2019 and the U.S. formally left the climate agreement shortly after the presidential election last year, meaning the U.S. has only technically been withdrawn from the pact for a little over three months, or 107 days.

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Biden signed an executive order on Inauguration Day recommitting the U.S. to the Paris Agreement, under which signatories pledge to take action to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius compared to preindustrial levels. The global temperature has already risen by 1.2 degrees. The U.S. will now have to submit a plan for voluntary greenhouse gas emissions reduction over the next decade, also known as a nationally determined contribution. When the U.S. first signed the Paris accord in 2016, the Obama administration aimed to reduce emissions, using a baseline of 2005 emissions levels, by 28 percent over the coming decade.

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Despite Obama-era emissions-curbing policy efforts targeting power plants and vehicle emissions, many of which were continued at the state-level and by industry despite the Trump administration, the U.S. was still coming in at 12 percent, less than half, of its emissions reduction target as recently as 2019. In 2020, a year when the economy essentially ground to a halt, the U.S. came closer to its emissions reduction targets with a 21 percent reduction, but even then still fell well short of its target. The Biden administration and the U.S., like other signatories, will be expected to outline new, more ambitious reduction goals by November when the next U.N. climate summit, COP26, will be held in Glasgow.

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