On Day One of the Biden Administration, the U.S. Rejoins Paris Climate Agreement

This blog was written by Jennifer Rennicks, former Senior Director of Policy & Communications at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Guest Blog | January 21, 2021 | Climate Change, Energy Policy

The banners and flags from the Inauguration ceremony were still draped on the Capitol’s western front yesterday afternoon when newly-sworn in President Biden began signing his first stack of executive orders focused on issues ranging from COVID-19 to immigration; from economic relief to climate change.

In fact, one of the very first orders President Biden signed in the Oval Office was the order directing the United States to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement: a global agreement signed by 192 countries in Paris in December 2015 to limit carbon emissions in order to keep the global average temperature increase below 2 degrees celsius.

President Biden signs his third executive order on January 20, 2021, reauthorizing the United States to rejoin the Paris Agreement. Source: C-SPAN

The U.S. signed the agreement under the Obama Administration, and while the agreement itself is not legally binding (there are no penalties if a country fails to meet emissions reduction goals), it is still important in recognizing the real and true threats posed by climate change and inspiring world leaders to stand by commitments to reduce climate-causing pollution. This agreement was many years in the making, as an earlier attempt for a global agreement fell short at COP 15 in 2009 in Copenhagen where hundreds of world leaders and thousands of activists (including myself and SACE’s Executive Director, Stephen Smith) gathered in hopes that a global commitment could be reached.

SACE’s Executive Director Dr. Stephen Smith & SACE’s Director of Policy and Communications Jennifer Rennicks tour the Copenhagen harbor coastal wind farm during COP15 in December 2009

Unlike former President Trump, who openly denigrated the science of climate change even before starting his term in office, President Biden put climate action in the very center of his presidential campaign, promising to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, among other critical climate-friendly actions, as soon as he took office.

While rejoining this Agreement is one small and largely symbolic step, we at SACE are glad to see the new administration honoring its commitments and boldly stepping back up onto the world stage to confront the climate crisis through the myriad clean energy solutions we already have at hand. Last month I published a blog outlining a few of those federal-level possibilities here.

SACE’s Executive Director, Dr. Stephen Smith, was interviewed about the benefits of the Paris Climate Accord on WATE and said, “This notion that somehow or other solving for the climate crisis leads to a lack of jobs or a lack of innovation is 180 degrees incorrect. We need to be solving this crisis for our children and our grandchildren so we don’t leave them a diminished world. Rejoining the Paris Agreement will put the US at the forefront of new and innovative technology, like electric vehicles, and lead to jobs.” Watch the WATE clip below:

Stay tuned for more updates in 2021 as we track climate and energy policy and proposals at the federal and state level here on SACE’s blog. Want to support our regional and national work to advance climate solutions? Join us!


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