U.S. Officially Leaves Paris Agreement, At Least For Now

In 2015, the U.S. signed the Paris Agreement, a historic pledge signed by almost 200 nations to slash carbon emissions and implement other tangible steps to curb climate change.

Five years later, the U.S. made history again, but this time for the wrong reasons. On Nov. 4, 2020, the America became the first country to officially exit the Paris Agreement, undercutting the landmark accord at a critical time for our planet.

Photo: Flickr/Skaja Lee

“The United States notified the United Nations of its withdrawal one year ago, on November 4, 2019. Per the terms of the Agreement, that withdrawal takes effect exactly one year after delivery of notification,” a US State Department spokesperson declared in a statement last week, according to CNN. “Today — November 4, 2020 — the United States is no longer a Party to the Paris Agreement.”

But America’s lonely status on the wrong side of environmental history may be short-lived, because President-elect Joe Biden has promised to rejoin the Paris Agreement on his first day in office. If America’s next president notified the UN of America’s intention to rejoin the Paris Agreement immediately after his January 20 inauguration, the U.S. could be welcomed back into the historic accord in just 30 days.

Photo: Flickr/Ian Barbour

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Even so, rejoining the Paris Agreement is just the first step, according to experts, who say the U.S. will have to work hard to meet its goals after 4 years of environmental roll-backs and Trump-era deregulation. An even larger issue may be restoring America’s climate credibility on a world stage, because the Paris Agreement wasn’t even the first climate accord scuttled by the U.S., which is also the world’s largest carbon polluter in history.

Photo: Flickr/AK Rockefeller

“If Biden wins, he’s going to have to go through a process to rejoin Paris,” Andrew Light, a former climate official in the U.S. State Department, told CNN, recalling how U.S. allies first began doubting America’s environmental pledges when the country pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol, a climate accord signed by 191 nations in 1997. “Part of it will be straightforward, and part of it won’t because the US reputation has already been damaged on this issue,” said Light.

More than 4 million acres of California have been razed by wildfires in 2020.
Source: YouTube/CGTN America
More than 4 million acres of California have been razed by wildfires in 2020.

Regardless, conservationists, co-signers, and people concerned by our rapidly warming planet are cheering America’s commitment to rejoining this landmark accord, which — in a year marked by hurricanes, wildfires, and unprecedented climate-driven disasters — has proven to be more urgent and necessary than ever. There’s clearly much work to be done, but rejoining the Paris Agreement is also an essential step towards becoming part of the solution, not the problem.

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