Paris Agreement & USA: Opportunities & Challenges

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What is Paris Agreement?

The Paris Agreement is formally known as the Conference of Parties (COP 21), which is a protocol for combating the current climate change. This is known as World’s First comprehensive regime on tracking climate change within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It was signed by 195 countries to slow the process of global warming in the year 2015. Previously the same attempt was done in the Cop15 meeting in Denmark (2015) but most of the developed countries didn’t agree to join the agreement regarding the Climate Change issue. One may ask himself is important to come up with these frameworks and the simple answer to this can be inferred from the fact that some Nations are already facing the impacts of climate change, i.e. Floods, Draughts, and Cyclones. Though we (Indians) haven’t faced any extreme consequences as now island nations are worst affected by these changes.

It is worth mentioning here that the Sea Levels are rising and the World’s land ice is disappearing. The stats tell us that the Global mean level has risen about 8-9 inches (21-24 Centimeters) since 1880, with about a third of that coming in just two and half decades. From 2018-19, the Global Sea level rose to 0.24 inches.[1] While rising Sea levels ultimately influence the entire planet, they pose the greatest threat to the islands like Marshall Island and Tuvalu.

Key Provisions

  • Mitigation: Reducing fossil fuels and others that are burnt to get energy. The long-term goal has been set to keeping the increase in Global Average Temperature to well below 2-degree C above the Pre- Industrial levels. It is pertinent to note here that during the Paris Conference, signatory countries submitted Comprehensive National Climate Action Plans.
  • Finance and Capacity Building Support: The EU and other developed Nations proposed to support climate action to reduce emissions and build resilience to climate change impacts in developing nations. (100 billion per year till 2020)
  • Loss and Damage: The agreement is intended to minimize the loss and damage which our environment has faced because of the impact of Climate change and Global warming.
  • Transparency, Implementation, and Compliance: This agreement aims to achieve the utmost transparency and accountability to provide clarity on the actions and objectives.[2]

Biden and Paris Agreement

Most people believe one of the major blunders done by Donald Trump during his presidential tenure was pulling out from the Paris Agreement. In today’s world, the USA plays a vital role in climate change and Global Warming, as the USA is the biggest emitter of Carbon Dioxide in recent times. The United States has emitted more CO 2 than any other country to date: at around 400 billion tonnes since 1751, it is responsible for 25% of historical emissions; this is twice more than China – the world’s second-largest national contributor.[3] Barack Obama signed the agreement in his tenure but the way Donald Trump failed to take the responsibility is unfortunate. During the elections, Joe Bidden promised if he elected the USA would re-join the historical accord in 77days.

Donald Trump made a controversial promise during the election campaign that if he comes into power USA would pull out of the Paris agreement. He described this agreement as unfair to US interests. Since one of the provisions of the agreement made it is mandatory a year time period for any country to pull out the USA officially pulled out in November 2020 only.[4] Many environmentalists criticize this decision citing that the USA’s exit would seriously jeopardize the very objective of the agreement since the USA is the major emitter. One may assume since Donald Trump himself is a businessman and this decision was taken to earn more profits only.

Joe Bidden further proposed a $2trillion spending plan that would include promoting clean energy and climate-friendly Infrastructure.

Challenges and Opportunities for the USA

Since the USA is one of the major CO2 emitters in the world hence it is practically impossible to fulfil the objective of the Paris Agreement without the support of the US. The US emission in the year of 2007 was 7 billion tonnes and in 2018 6.6 billion tonnes which itself tells the whole story that the USA has still a major challenge to reduce the emissions as per se, further Trump pulled out from the agreement making things uglier. It was proposed by the agreement that the USA was supposed to decrease its emission by at least 1.5 billion tonnes in the next decadeclean . But when the USA walked out of the agreement under the leadership of Donald Trump, it was under no obligation to fulfil this target by any means which would ultimately defeat the purpose and objective of the said Agreement.

Donald Trump asserted that he pulled out from the agreement to boost economic activity and promote domestic productions.

Under the leadership of Joe Bidden, the USA would Re-join the Paris accord and the USA would formulate a new climate target in the coming days. Considering the current geopolitical situation, it may take one or two years for the USA to re-established the trust of all the stakeholders.

Conclusion

From the above-mentioned discussion, we saw how two different leaders took different decisions though aimed to Make their country great. One needs to understand the in today’s world we should be aiming to achieve sustainable development only, we can’t damage our environment any further.  Various legislations (including our Constitution[5]) in the world have provisions to avail the citizens’ proper environment to live a happy and healthy life. Though Donald trump’s decision has hampered the objective of this accord significantly it is imperative that under the leadership of Bidden USA would fulfil its obligations prescribed and support the developing Nations to achieve the stipulated target of 2 degree Celcius temperature in coming years.


[1] Climate.gov, Climate Change: Global Sea Level | NOAA Climate.gov, 5th March, 2021.

[2] UNFCCC, Key aspects of the Paris Agreement | UNFCCC, 5th March, 2021.

[3] Our World In Data, CO2 emissions – Our World in Data, 5th March, 2021.

[4] BBC News, Climate change: US formally withdraws from Paris agreement – BBC News, 4th November, 2020.

[5] The Constitution of India,1950, Article 21.

Written By

Abhyudaya Raj Mishra

Himachal Pradesh National Law University, Shimla.

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