Biden’s move to re-join the Paris climate agreement boosts our chance to tackle the climate crisis
President Biden’s move to re-join the Paris Agreement also provides a boost for multilateralism, writes Lord Stern | PA Images
By the time of COP26 in November, the world’s major emitters will have set targets for reaching net zero emissions by 2050 or 2060.
The world has taken a big step forward towards avoiding dangerous climate change with the decision by President Biden that the United States will re-join the Paris Agreement.
By initiating so quickly after his inauguration, the process of reversing the withdrawal of the United States from the Agreement, President Biden has signalled the importance he places on coordinated international action on climate change.
President Biden has made the Covid-19 pandemic his main domestic priority and has promised to ‘build back better’ from the damage it has caused, placing climate action and sustainable infrastructure at the heart of his strategy for recovery, investment and infrastructure.
The President’s appointed of John Kerry, an extremely distinguished and knowledgeable statesman, as Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, and to the National Security Council, is a further indication that Mr Biden intends to make serious progress on the issue.
Mr Kerry has already indicated that re-joining the Paris Agreement represents “a floor, not a ceiling, for our climate leadership”.
We have a chance to both manage the immense risks of climate change and find a new sustainable, inclusive, and resilient path to development and growth
The United States will complete its process of again becoming a Party to the Agreement on 19 February and we expect that the Biden Administration will submit within a few months a revised ‘nationally determined contribution’.
Given the still greater urgency as we both learn more and more about the immense dangers, and see the rapid advance in technology, it should include a stronger target than the 26-28 per cent cut in emissions of greenhouse gases by 2025 compared with 2005, which was pledged by the Obama Administration in 2015. Emissions from the United States in 2018 were about 10 per cent lower than in 2005.
President Biden has indicated that he wants to create a “100% clean energy economy”, and his campaign included a “plan to build a modern, sustainable infrastructure and an equitable clean energy future”.
He is also likely to fulfil his campaign pledge to commit the United States to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. This would mean that by the time of COP26 in November, all three of the world’s major emitters, China, the United States and the European Union, will have set targets for reaching net zero emissions by 2050 or 2060.
Many other countries, including the United Kingdom, have also made net zero pledges, providing strong momentum ahead of COP26. The United States should now be able to help move forward discussions on other critical issues ahead of the summit, including financial support for climate action in developing countries.
President Biden’s move to re-join the Paris Agreement also provides a boost for multilateralism and a coordinated international response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In particular, there will be an opportunity for the President to join other G7 leaders in creating a global action plan for sustainable recovery and growth when they meet in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, in June.
In a world of fractured politics, action on climate can now draw nations and peoples together, and we have a chance to both manage the immense risks of climate change and find a new sustainable, inclusive, and resilient path to development and growth.
Lord Stern is a crossbench member of the House of Lords and chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science.