Biden signals his intent for the U.S. to re-enter the Paris Agreement

It goes without saying that President Donald Trump and President-Elect Joe Biden did not see eye-to-eye on pretty much anything while on the campaign trail. Now that the election is (apparently) over, some light is starting to be shed on Biden’s policy initiatives.

One part of this that has already received some attention relates to the environment, with Biden indicating that after he is inaugurated in January the United States will rejoin the Paris Agreement, which the U.S. formally exited on November 4.

The Paris Agreement by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) requires each of the 197 participating countries to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. It also aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change. To reach these ambitious goals, appropriate financial flows, a new technology framework and an enhanced capacity building framework will be put in place, thus supporting action by developing countries and the most vulnerable countries, in line with their own national objectives. The nonbinding agreement also provides for enhanced transparency of action and support through a more robust transparency framework.

As previously noted in this space, the U.S. announced its intention to exit the Paris Agreement in June 2017. At that time, President Trump said that the U.S will begin negotiations to reenter either the Paris Accord or a really entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers.  

“The United States will cease all implementation of the non-binding Paris Accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country,” he said. “This includes ending the implementation of the nationally determined contribution and, very importantly, the Green Climate Fund which is costing the United States a vast fortune. Compliance with the terms of the Paris Accord and the onerous energy restrictions it has placed on the United States could cost America as much as 2.7 million lost jobs by 2025 according to the National Economic Research Associates.  This includes 440,000 fewer manufacturing jobs …and the further decimation of vital American industries on which countless communities rely.  They rely for so much, and we would be giving them so little.”

And when the U.S. formally kicked off its processes to exit the Paris Agreement in November 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cited President Trump’s rationale for exiting the Paris Agreement, pointing to the “the unfair economic burden imposed on American workers, businesses, and taxpayers by U.S. pledges made under the Agreement.” And he added that the U.S. has reduced all types of emissions, while growing the economy and ensuring citizens’ access to affordable energy. As examples of that, he pointed to U.S. emissions of criteria air pollutants that impact human health and the environment declined by 74% between 1970 and 2018.  U.S. net greenhouse gas emissions dropped 13% from 2005-2017, even as our economy grew over 19 percent.

This move was panned by many well-known, household name shippers.

In a letter sent to President Trump on April 26, 2017, 16 companies, including Apple, DuPont, General Mills, Google, Intel, and Walmart, among others, pleaded their case for why the U.S. should remain in the agreement.

“Climate change presents U.S. companies with both business risks and business opportunities,” the letter stated. “U.S. business interests are best served by a stable and practical framework facilitating an effective and balanced response. We believe the Paris Network provides such a framework.”

As for the Biden Administration, his transition team’s Web site cited how President-elect Biden is leading the world to address the climate emergency and leading through the power of example.

“Biden knows how to stand with America’s allies, stand up to adversaries, and level with any world leader about what must be done,” he said. “He will not only recommit the United States to the Paris Agreement on climate change—he will go much further than that. He is working to lead an effort to get every major country to ramp up the ambition of their domestic climate targets.”

So, there is not much in the way of substance there, at least not yet. But it is clear that is the direction this administration will head in.

From a logistics perspective, many industry stakeholders view the Paris Agreement as being very important, due largely to its ambition, global scope and providing a very broad framework.

In fact, the Environmental Defense Fund has long maintained that the Paris Agreement was a good deal on the day it was signed and still remains a good deal for the U.S. and the climate.

“If anything has changed since the president first announced his intentions in 2017, it’s that we have even more evidence that the climate crisis is upon us and that American voters are increasingly saying climate action is a priority for them, too,” the EDF said in November 2019. “The Paris Agreement was made possible through U.S. leadership. By withdrawing, the United States abandons its allies in the fight against climate change. It’s yet another instance of Trump acting counter to U.S. interest in foreign policy. He’s sacrificing a stable future for our children to serve his narrow political interests.

EDF added that the American people want action to solve climate change, calling the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement a reckless decision that threatens our economy and our future prosperity.

That is a fair amount to unpack, to be sure, but it is clear that things will be changing on the climate change and environmental front starting next year. It will be interesting to see how things play out from there.

About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor

Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman