World welcomes US return to Paris climate accord - GulfToday

World welcomes US return to Paris climate accord


The Wahlenberg Glacier is seen in Oscar II land at Spitsbergen in Svalbard, Norway. File/Reuters

Gulf Today Report

Climate-change leaders and campaigners worldwide welcomed the decision by President Joe Biden for the US to re-join the Paris Agreement on climate change, but said Washington must also cut emissions and use its influence to encourage other countries to do the same.

Biden began signing executive actions, which among others, addressed climate change and initiated the process of the United States rejoining the Paris climate accord.

In one of his first acts as president, Biden issued an executive order on Wednesday to bring the United States, the world's second-largest greenhouse gas emitter, back into the global treaty committing nearly 200 countries to halt rising temperatures quickly enough to avoid disastrous climate change, according to Reuters.

Joe-Biden--Paris-Climate-AccordPresident Joe Biden speaks during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the US Capitol in Washington. Patrick Semansky/AP

Washington formally left the Paris accord last year but its role as a heavyweight in global climate negotiations had already stalled with the 2016 election of President Donald Trump.

Trump cast doubt on climate science and asserted that the accord was an economic burden. UN climate negotiations have stuttered since then, with multiple summits failing to deliver ambitious action.

“I wouldn't be surprised if they get a standing ovation just by entering the room,” former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres said, referring to a US return to global climate talks. “That doesn't mean that they will have a standing ovation forever. They have to prove that they are really determined to make the changes that are necessary.”

Big-Bend-Power-StationSteam rises out of chimneys at the Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach, Florida. File/Reuters

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres welcomed the US return to the Paris accord but added: “There is a very long way to go. The climate crisis continues to worsen and time is running out to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius and build more climate-resilient societies that help to protect the most vulnerable.”

Climate diplomats said they want to see an ambitious US commitment to cut emissions this decade and a diplomatic push to convince others to follow suit. Top of the list would be China, the world's biggest polluter, which plans to become carbon neutral by 2060 but has yet to unveil a short-term plan to reduce emissions.

Climate agreements signed by China and the United States played a big role in securing a deal at the Paris climate talks in 2015.

But during the Trump administration, climate became another source of friction between the world's two biggest economies, and experts said it was unlikely that their relationship could immediately return to normal.


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“A lot has changed since the Obama years that will make the G2 climate relationship under Biden unpredictable,” said Li Shuo, senior climate and energy policy officer for Greenpeace East Asia, referring to the United States and China as the G2.

Li pointed to the rock-bottom US-China relationship and divisive politics that create challenges for climate engagement.

“What remains unchanged is the need for the G2 to move towards the same direction ... Now the task is for the pair to switch to high gear, holding each other’s hand or not,” Li said.

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