America's back, baby! (In the Paris climate agreement)
More than three years after former President Donald Trump announced plans to pull the United States out of the multinational Paris Agreement, America has once again joined the sweeping environmental framework, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Friday.
"Now, as momentous as our joining the Agreement was in 2016 — and as momentous as our rejoining is today — what we do in the coming weeks, months, and years is even more important," Blinken said in a statement trumpeting the fulfillment of one of President Biden's very first presidential priorities.
While Biden expressly rejected the progressive "Green New Deal" environmental proposal during the 2020 presidential campaign, he has made a number of modest — but concrete — steps toward addressing climate change since assuming office in January. In addition to prioritizing the U.S.'s return to the Paris climate accords, he also halted construction on the Keystone XL oil pipeline, detailed plans to transition all federal government vehicles into an electric fleet, and installed former Secretary of State John Kerry as his administration's "climate czar."
In terms of day-to-day activity, the return to the accords will likely have little impact for now. The agreement is just that — an agreement between signatory nations on target goals for carbon emissions, without any actionable consequences for failure (except, you know, environmental catastrophe). Rather, rejoining the Paris accords essentially functions as a promise by the U.S. to try and reach a 25% reduction in 2005 emissions in the next four years. (At our current pace, we're more likely to hit somewhere in the ballpark of 17%.)
And although the Trump White House's decision to make the U.S. the first and only nation to withdraw from the Paris Agreement was years in the making, it only actually went into effect in terms of actual policy this past November, in the waning days of the Trump administration. So the U.S. was only withdrawn from the international agreement for a few months.
Apprehension toward the Green New Deal notwithstanding, Biden's approach toward combating climate change and embracing more environmentally sound policies is slowly coming into focus as a holistic push to incorporate environmentally sound decisions into his broader policy agenda.
"Climate change and science diplomacy can never again be 'add-ons' in our foreign policy discussions," Blinken said in his statement. "Addressing the real threats from climate change and listening to our scientists is at the center of our domestic and foreign policy priorities. It is vital in our discussions of national security, migration, international health efforts, and in our economic diplomacy and trade talks."