WASHINGTON – For four years, the rest of the world watched with frustration and irony as the US abandoned the Paris Agreement, the global climate pact it had painstakingly pressured other countries to join, and which was abruptly abandoned during the Trump administration .
The US will be back in business as of Friday, but has a lot of catching up to do to meet its emissions reduction commitments and restore its diminished reputation on the world stage.
U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases that trap heat have declined over the past year, but that was an anomaly due to the coronavirus pandemic, which slowed much of the economy. As the country recovers, emissions are expected to rise again, and President Joe Biden’s administration is scrambling to put the US on the right track to meet even more ambitious goals that scientists believe must be done around the worst Avoid the effects of global warming.
This is especially true when it comes to restoring US credibility in order to convince China, by far the largest emitter in the world, to move forward faster.
“We have to show that we don’t just talk, we go for a walk,” said Todd Stern, the leading US negotiator for the Obama administration on the 2015 climate agreement. “Our ability to be effective will start at home. Everyone understands that the United States really needs to make a fresh effort. “
Within hours of being sworn in on the steps of the US Capitol, Biden signed an executive order bringing the US back to the climate agreement. It takes 30 days after a country delivers its documentation to the United States for entry to take effect. This period ends on Friday.
As the Biden administration tries to show serious intentions, a carefully choreographed series of events on Friday will highlight the US’s formal return to the highly competitive global deal.
Former Secretary of State John Kerry, Biden’s special envoy on climate, will be front and center, officials said. He will perform in the afternoon with UN Secretary General António Guterres together with Biden’s local climate gazar Gina McCarthy and his UN climate commissioner Mike Bloomberg for a morning event to mark the establishment of the coalition “America Is All In,” city, state and business leaders, which will be held during the Trump -Years continued to take action against the climate.
With the aim of showing solidarity regarding the climate with European partners and other allies, Kerry will also attend a special lunchtime session of the Munich Security Conference and a virtual reception that will be presented by the E.U. Delegation and embassies of the United Kingdom, Italy, France and Chile. He will answer questions about climate diplomacy at another event alongside the British and Italian ambassadors.
And Biden is expected to emphasize the US move when he attends a virtual Group of Seven summit on Friday and sponsor a climate summit of world leaders the US is planning for April, with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson placing a focus on the climate , the host of the G-7.
Officials involved in the government’s climate change agenda said the key message the US hopes to send is that the Paris Agreement will stay intact with no other countries following the US out the door – a prospect climate lawyers feared When Donald Trump announced months after his presidency, that the US was out.
In the coming months, the Biden government must also develop a new emissions reduction target known as the Nationally Set Contribution, which will determine the scope of the country’s ambitious targets for the next decade. Under the Paris Agreement, the commitments, which are reviewed every five years, are not binding, although other parts of the agreement are.
The previous target, set by President Barack Obama, required the US to cut emissions by at least 26 percent by 2025 compared to 2005. In the years since then, US emissions have actually declined, in part due to steps taken during the Obama administration to reduce emissions from power plants, vehicles, and other sources – but not enough.
Early data shows that last year, when emissions were abnormally low due to the pandemic, the country’s emissions were 21.5 percent lower than in 2005, according to the Rhodium Group, an independent researcher who tracks emissions data. However, in 2019, before that Coronavirus conquered the world, the US was only about half as close to its target, with emissions 12 percent below 2005 levels, as opposed to the target of 26 percent.
With Trump’s withdrawal from the pact, the 2025 target became technically controversial. Biden’s new target will set cuts that the US will aim for by 2030.
“With that in mind, we’re starting over,” said Nat Keohane, senior vice president of the Environmental Defense Fund, a nonprofit advocacy group.
The Biden government plans to announce the new target in April when Biden convenes a world summit on climate, several US officials said. Long-term, Biden has committed the US to achieving net zero emissions across the economy by 2050, long after he left office.
How Biden will attempt to achieve these goals is an open question. However, the effort is likely to involve a mix of regulations to introduce stricter emission limits for vehicles, power plants and industry. Incentives to move the US to electric cars and renewables faster; and possibly a market-based mechanism to enforce carbon emissions reductions, such as a carbon tax or fee, or an emissions trading scheme, according to those familiar with the Biden government’s deliberations.
All of this requires a sharp departure from the policies of the Trump administration, which aimed to reverse Obama-era regulations and incentivize economic growth by placing less stringent limits on industry.
“Indeed there was no US government contribution,” said Guterres, the secretary general of the United States, during the Trump years on Thursday. Nonetheless, he said, the rest of American society, despite Trump, has made further progress on the climate and positioned the US to be “fully on the way to net zero by 2050”.
Other countries are also watching closely to see whether the US will honor its commitments to the Green Climate Fund, which was set up to enable poorer developing countries to cut emissions by shifting some of the costs to wealthier countries, historically the most borne are to blame for climate change. The US gave only about a third of the $ 3 billion pledged by the Obama administration. Kerry said the Biden administration would “make up for it” in full.
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The US has contributed more to global emissions in the past than any other country, but rapidly developing China is now the world leader in greenhouse gas emissions and has continued to build coal-fired power plants even though President Xi Jinping set a target for China’s emissions Set to zero by 2060.
“It’s not enough for the US to come back to Paris. We need to start cutting our emissions to put pressure on countries like China, whose emissions are still rising,” said Paul Bledsoe, a climate advisor in the Clinton administration strategic advisor at the Progressive Policy Institute, a non-profit advocacy group.
In the first few weeks of Biden’s presidency, China Hawks expressed concern that willingness to continue climate diplomacy with Beijing, a key priority for Kerry, could lead the Biden government to China on other issues such as trade, human rights and Beijing aggressive actions in the region.
Kerry has pledged that other national security issues will not be neglected for climate reasons, calling it a “critical problem in its own right” that he hopes the US can keep going with Beijing even if relations turn bad on other fronts .