As one of his first acts in the Oval Office, President Joe Biden brought the United States back into the Paris Climate Agreement, reversing the previous administration’s decision to exit the 195-nation pact. This is part of the new president’s efforts to tackle climate change by mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and adapting and adopting new international rules to accomplish the Accord’s goals. But what is the Paris Climate Accord, and what does the deal do?
Paris Climate Accord: A Primer
In November 2015, the Paris Agreement was drafted in Le Bourget, France, as part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It was signed by 195 parties in April 2016 and went into effect in November of that year.
Each signatory is required to establish, plan, and report on the contributions it has made to the fight against global warming. But while no enforcement mechanisms are in place, members are encouraged to develop particular emissions targets by a specific date.
Indeed, the Accord’s ultimate objective is to limit the increase in the global average temperature to below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (two degrees Celsius), as well as to ensure the temperature rise is limited to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius). Officials aim to decrease emissions as quickly as possible, accomplishing “a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases.”
Who Is a Part of the Accord?
As of January 2021, 194 states and the European Union belong to the Paris Accord. In addition to the U.S. rejoining the pact, many other major economies have signed up, including China, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Brazil. Several nations have signed it but have not ratified the deal, including Turkey, Iran, and Iraq.
Is It Working?
Developed countries had committed to spending $100 billion per year to the U.N.’s Green Climate Fund by 2020 and employing this level of funding to the climate fund each year until 2025. According to a Heritage Foundation study, following through on the commitments outlined at the beginning of the agreement would lead to enormous costs by 2035.
Analysts forecast that approximately 400,000 jobs would be lost, with about half originating in manufacturing. An aggregate gross domestic product loss of more than $2.5 trillion. Also, a family of four would see an average total income loss of roughly $20,000. The conservative group adds:
“To make matters worse, the climate regulations encompassing the U.S. target may not even achieve the desired results and would require additional regulations. And that would just be the beginning. The Paris Agreement requires ever-increasing targets as time goes on, which would further increase the cost of compliance. These efforts would return us to the same costly and ineffective policies that the current administration is unwinding.”
Judging by President Biden’s remarks about how critical the Paris Accord is, one might think signatories must at least be slashing greenhouse gas emissions and reaching full compliance. But they aren’t.
Despite exiting the agreement early on, America’s CO2 emissions have plummeted to 30-year lows, and the country has outperformed its major counterparts by vast margins. China, the European Union, and Canada have seen increases in CO2 emissions; and Japan, the U.K., and Mexico have put only small dents on their pollution levels.
The War on Oil?
Could rejoining the Climate Accord, in addition to President Biden’s latest efforts to diminish the strength of the U.S. oil and gas sector, threaten America’s energy independence? In the last couple of years, the United States became a net export nation, no longer relying on foreign oil to fuel the world’s largest economy. One of the contributing factors for accomplishing this four-decade-old pledge from Democratic and Republican administrations, according to industry observers, has been leaving the international pact. The energy sector is on the road to recovery in the aftermath of prices crashing below zero. It could be sometime before oil and gas companies endure the consequences of the agreement and other restrictions.