On Friday, almost a month after President Biden announced that the US had again approved the terms of the agreement, the US officially rejoined the Paris Climate Accord.
The US was removed from the accord by former President Donald Trump. It was unsuccessful, he said, because it encourages nations to voluntarily curb their own emissions and aims to maintain the US and other developed nations at a higher level.
Although Trump said the US was pulling out in 2017, the change was mainly symbolic and it did not really happen until after a one-year notice period to the United Nations last year.
UN officials cheered the return of the US, even though at a meeting in Glasgow, Scotland, in November, Biden’s climate team, headed by John Kerry, is angling to help draught a more aggressive agreement.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said it “is very important in itself,” and Christiana Figueres, former UN Global Warming Chief, told the Associated Press that “it’s the political message that’s being sent.”
Biden issued a statement on his first day in office last month saying: “I, Joseph R. Biden Jr., President of the United States of America, having seen and considered the Paris Agreement, done at Paris on December 12, 2015, do hereby accept the said Agreement and every article and clause thereof on behalf of the United States of America.”
Rejoining has no immediate impact on the US, but complements Biden’s other first-month measures to hamper fossil fuel extraction industries. He also cancelled construction of Canada’s Keystone XL oil pipeline and prohibited possible oil and gas drilling licences on federal lands.
China is also a part of the 2016 agreement with the No. 1 carbon emitter, but Trump scoffed at the suggestion that the authoritarian state would voluntarily minimise its own emissions. In the middle of talks about how countries could enforce a new accountability system, the US abandoned the agreement.
“What we won’t do is punish the American people while enriching foreign polluters,” said Trump in 2019 at a shale gas industry conference in Pennsylvania.