Climate Change

20 Feb 2021

US Returns to Paris Climate Agreement

20 Feb 2021  by Michael Ball   

The US officially rejoined the Paris climate agreement today, with the country's top climate diplomat calling for more action by the world's major emitters.

Now that the US is back in the Paris accord, it will push for the rest of the world to set more aggressive greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions pledges in the lead-up to this year's COP 26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, US special climate envoy John Kerry said today during a UN virtual event to mark the country's return to the agreement.

"We need the United States and every country to determine they will get on a path to net-zero emissions by 2050," Kerry said, calling the November summit "our last best hope" to get the world on track to limit global warming.

"When we go to Glasgow, all nations must raise our sights, must raise ambitions together, or we will all fail together," he said.

Kerry especially called out China, along with the EU, Russia and India, among the leading emitters that need to step up. China and the US are the two largest emitters of GHGs.

The US plans to update its own emissions pledge and announce the new goal at a climate summit that US President Joe Biden plans to host in April.

The US under former president Barack Obama had pledged to cut its GHG emissions by 26-28pc from 2005 levels to help achieve the Paris agreement's primary goal of keeping global temperatures from rising more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels. Kerry tied the call for more aggressive action to the agreement's ideal target of working toward a 1.5°C increase.

UN officials say they are hopeful the return of the US to the Paris agreement will help push other countries into action.

"For the past four years, the absence of a key player created a gap in the Paris agreement, a missing link that weakened the whole," UN secretary general Antonio Guterres said.

The US formally exited the Paris accord on 4 November 2020, the day after the presidential election. Former president Donald Trump had called the agreement a bad deal for the US economy.

Biden during last year's election campaign promised to quickly rejoin the Paris agreement and, just hours after his inauguration on 20 January, he formally notified the UN of his intention.

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