Sage Stretch ‘24
The Paris Climate Agreement was started by the United Nations to mitigate and adapt to climate change with a focus on accountability from nations with high emissions. The agreement was initially accepted in April 2016 with 196 signatories, including the United States under President Obama. In June of 2017, former President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement, citing concerns about its economic effects. Throughout his presidential campaign, then-candidate Joe Biden promised to rejoin the agreement soon after swearing in. On his Inauguration Day, President Biden fulfilled his promise, taking a necessary and important step not only to prioritize the climate crisis but also to rebuild our international reputation.
The Paris Climate Accord is the first agreement of its size to truly hold countries accountable for their emissions and for exacerbating climate change. It vows to keep the planet under 2°C of warming from pre-industrial temperatures through climate mitigation and calls for countries to take preventative measures in the face of both global warming and increasing disasters, including the resulting massive migrations. When Trump impulsively withdrew from the agreement, it signaled that climate action was not a priority and that the United States would not collaborate on a global solution, which diminished its global authority. The United States further harmed its international standing when prominent U.S. officials denied the well-established science behind climate change. Pressuring developing countries to develop sustainably cannot be done when our government will not admit that we are in a climate crisis. When President Biden re-entered the agreement so quickly after taking office, he signaled to other countries that prioritizing climate action is vital, and that once again, we encourage solving global crises through alliance.
Restoring the international reputation of the United States will be challenging after a pattern of misinformation and false claims put forward by the government, but rejoining the agreement is one step in the right direction. The climate crisis will disproportionately affect those who contributed to it, meaning its costs will not mainly be borne by China, India, the United States, and other populated, developed or developing countries, but rather by disadvantaged communities already suffering from natural disasters, air pollution, overloading waste, and more. By acknowledging its role in global industrialization emissions, the United States takes appropriate responsibility. The Paris Climate Agreement is also signed by 194 other parties in the United Nations, and U.S. support proves our commitment to the United Nations and to the officials and scientists who created and supported this plan. Taken together, these actions help restore our international standing.
Climate action should not be treated as a box to check off the list. Signing the agreement is only one step in the large plan to recommit to solving the climate crisis and to rebuilding our international reputation. Energy conservation and sustainability, waste reduction, and minimizing air pollution are all far from complete, and international reputations are not restored with the stroke of a pen.