Biden Expected to Rejoin Paris Agreement on Day One, Bring US Back into International Fold

Statement by Dr. Rachel Cleetus, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Jan 19, 2021

WASHINGTON—Just a few short months after the Trump administration withdrew the United States from the Paris climate agreement, the incoming Biden administration is expected to formally request to rejoin, with an executive order anticipated for Inauguration Day on January 20.

Below is a statement by Dr. Rachel Cleetus, policy director and lead economist for the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. Dr. Cleetus has attended the U.N.’s international climate talks and partnered with the international community on climate and energy policies for more than 14 years.

“President Biden’s swift action to rejoin the Paris Agreement will be the first step to bring the United States back into the fold of the global community, after four years of being isolated and on the sidelines. With communities in the U.S. and around the world reeling from a terrible spate of climate disasters in 2020, it’s a relief that the incoming administration has pledged to have science guide their decision-making in addressing the climate crisis.

“In addition to rejoining the Paris Agreement, the Biden administration must make an ambitious and credible international climate commitment, backed by domestic policy action, well ahead of the next U.N. climate talks in Glasgow this November.

“For far too long the nations least responsible for runaway climate change have borne the brunt of its impacts and received little help from major emitters. The United States is the second largest emitter of carbon emissions from fossil fuels annually and the largest source of cumulative emissions to date. Yet for decades, it has not done its fair share to rein in emissions.

“It’s time for the Biden administration to usher in a new paradigm—one that is morally defensible and reflects the latest science. At a minimum, Congress and the Biden administration need to collectively ensure the U.S. contributes an additional $8 billion to the Green Climate Fund—the largest dedicated fund to aid developing countries in addressing climate change—over the next four years. The U.S. also must reduce its heat-trapping emissions economywide by at least 50 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

“There will be a number of opportunities in 2021 for the Biden administration to help advance a progressive climate agenda when world leaders convene, including at annual meetings of the G7, G20 and the U.N. climate talks. It would also be wise for President Biden and his international climate envoy, John Kerry, to hold bilateral and multilateral discussions with other major emitting countries to solidify ways to collectively tackle the climate crisis head-on.

“The world is currently far off-track from where we need to be to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. Our choices over the next decade will be deeply consequential for people and the planet. The Biden administration must work with Congress and other nations to ensure we live up to that responsibility.”

More information on what a Biden presidency means for climate action can be found here. For more on what needs to happen in the lead up to the U.N. climate talks in Glasgow (COP26), click here.