Washington’s return to the Paris climate accord is a significant step. Build on it
With Mr Biden in the saddle and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s commitment to the issue — India has done well on its Paris commitments — the US must support India on mitigation, capacity-building in renewable energy, financing, data-sharing, Indian Ocean monitoring, and phasing out hydrofluorocarbons.
United States (US) President-elect Joe Biden will begin his term on Wednesday by signing executive orders to return the country to the Paris Climate Agreement (PCA). In a memo, Mr Biden’s chief of staff, Ron Klain, noted that the US is facing “four overlapping and compounding crises; the Covid-19 crisis, the resulting economic crisis, the climate crisis, and a racial equity crisis,” which “demand urgent action”. The Biden administration’s decision to return to PCA (the US issued a formal exit notice on November 4, 2019, which took effect on November 4, 2020) reverses one of the most controversial — and damaging — decisions of Mr Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, a climate sceptic. In the run-up to the election, Mr Biden had promised that one of his priorities would be to build a more resilient, sustainable economy — one that will put the US on an irreversible path to achieve net-zero emissions, economy-wide, by no later than 2050, and also lead an effort to get every major country to ramp up the ambition of their domestic climate targets.
The 2015 Paris agreement is the first truly legally binding global treaty to limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels. Mr Trump’s decision to withdraw the US, one of the world’s largest economies and emitters, cast a shadow on the deal because the US has a historical responsibility to not just reduce its own emissions but also provide financial resources to developing countries to deal with the crisis, their adaptation requirements and green technology. In 2020, the coronavirus pandemic elbowed out the climate crisis from the global agenda, but, at the same time, it underlined the urgent need to take stronger measures to offset the debilitating impact of the climate crisis on the environment and humans. The return of the US to the accord (and the arrival of the vaccines to deal with the pandemic) will hopefully help the world reset its focus on the crisis.
With Mr Biden in the saddle and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s commitment to the issue — India has done well on its Paris commitments — the US must support India on mitigation, capacity-building in renewable energy, financing, data-sharing, Indian Ocean monitoring, and phasing out hydroflu-orocarbons. A green partnership between two of the world’s biggest economies is not just critical for both nations, but can also become a template for the world to “build back better” after the pandemic.