U.S. Exits Paris Agreement Tomorrow, Re-enters if Biden Wins Today

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By Bennett Oghifo

The United States will officially withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change tomorrow, but Mr. Joe Biden, the Presidential nominee of the Democratic Party has promised the country would re-enter the global accord if he wins today’s election.

The U.S. government, led by President Donald Trump, served notice of the nation’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement through a statement issued by Secretary of State, Michael R. Pompeo, on November 4, last year.

The statement said the U.S. is exiting the Accord, because pledges the nation made under the Agreement imposed unfair economic burden on American workers, businesses, and taxpayers.

“Today the United States began the process to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. Per the terms of the Agreement, the United States submitted formal notification of its withdrawal to the United Nations. The withdrawal will take effect one year from delivery of the notification,” Pompeo said in his statement.

The Paris Agreement’s central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Additionally, the agreement aims to increase the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change, and at making finance flows consistent with a low greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate-resilient pathway. To reach these ambitious goals, appropriate mobilisation and provision of financial resources, a new technology framework and enhanced capacity-building is to be put in place, thus supporting action by developing countries and the most vulnerable countries, in line with their own national objectives. The Agreement also provides for an enhanced transparency framework for action and support.

The Paris Agreement requires all Parties to put forward their best efforts through “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs) and to strengthen these efforts in the years ahead. This includes requirements that all Parties report regularly on their emissions and on their implementation efforts. There will also be a global stocktake every five years to assess the collective progress towards achieving the purpose of the agreement and to inform further individual actions by Parties.

The Paris Agreement opened for signature on 22 April 2016 – Earth Day – at UN Headquarters in New York. It entered into force on 4 November 2016, 30 days after the so-called “double threshold” (ratification by 55 countries that account for at least 55% of global emissions) had been met. Since then, more countries have ratified and continue to ratify the Agreement, reaching a total of 125 Parties in early 2017, but the figure has gone up to 197 countries, which are known as Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

At COP 21 (21st conference of Parties) in Paris, on 12 December 2015, Parties to the UNFCCC reached a landmark agreement to combat climate change and to accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low carbon future. The Paris Agreement builds upon the Convention and – for the first time – brings all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects, with enhanced support to assist developing countries to do so. As such, it charts a new course in the global climate effort.

In order to make the Paris Agreement fully operational, a work programme was launched in Paris to develop modalities, procedures and guidelines on a broad array of issues. Since 2016, Parties work together in the subsidiary bodies (APA, SBSTA and SBI) and various constituted bodies. The Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA) met for the first time in conjunction with COP 22 in Marrakesh, Morocco (in November 2016) and adopted its first two decisions.

Pompeo said in his statement on November 4, last year, “As noted in his June 1, 2017 remarks, President Trump made the decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement because of the unfair economic burden imposed on American workers, businesses, and taxpayers by U.S. pledges made under the Agreement. The United States has reduced all types of emissions, even as we grow our economy and ensure our citizens’ access to affordable energy. Our results speak for themselves: U.S. emissions of criteria air pollutants that impact human health and the environment declined by 74% between 1970 and 2018. U.S. net greenhouse gas emissions dropped 13% from 2005-2017, even as our economy grew over 19 per cent.”

According to the statement, “The U.S. approach incorporates the reality of the global energy mix and uses all energy sources and technologies cleanly and efficiently, including fossil fuels, nuclear energy, and renewable energy. In international climate discussions, we will continue to offer a realistic and pragmatic model – backed by a record of real world results – showing innovation and open markets lead to greater prosperity, fewer emissions, and more secure sources of energy. We will continue to work with our global partners to enhance resilience to the impacts of climate change and prepare for and respond to natural disasters. Just as we have in the past, the United States will continue to research, innovate, and grow our economy while reducing emissions and extending a helping hand to our friends and partners around the globe.”

Regardless, Biden said, if elected president, the U.S. would, after his inauguration, return to the Paris Agreement and fulfill all its obligations.