US back in Paris pact raises hope, optimism to heal planet
New Delhi, Jan 22 (IANS) With Joe Biden unveiling sweeping actions to combat climate change just hours after becoming the new US President, moving to rejoin the 2015 Paris accord and suspension of new oil and gas leasing and drilling permits, diplomats and green groups, had a collective sigh of relief.
They say by reversing former President Donald Trump’s decisions, the US, the world’s second-largest greenhouse gas emitter, has demonstrated the real leadership and action as demanded by the climate emergency and has shown the world the path it must take to heal the planet.
Taking the lead soon after returning as Presidential Climate Envoy in the Biden Administration, John Kerry tweeted: “Today (January 21), @POTUS rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement, restoring America’s credibility and commitment — setting a floor, not a ceiling, for our climate leadership.
“Working together, the world must and will raise ambition. It’s time to get to work — the road to Glasgow begins here.”
Green activist and former US Vice President Al Gore said it was time to get to work with bold climate actions.
“With new leadership in the US, it’s time to get to work. We need bold climate action that prioritises justice in our economic recovery, and we need it in the first 100 days. Add your voice for climate action,” Gore, who shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for his work to slow global warming, said in a tweet.
Countries agreed to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees C and ideally 1.5 degrees Celsius as part of the 2015 Paris Agreement.
The latest science shows that emissions will need to drop by half by 2030 and reach net-zero by mid-century to meet this goal and prevent the worst impacts of climate change.
The question is: Are we on track to meet climate targets by 2030 and 2050?
The reply lies in the latest report from World Resources Institute (WRI) and ClimateWorks Foundation that says in all but a couple of cases, progress is happening far too slowly for the world to meet its emissions-reduction targets — and in some cases, the world moving in the entirely wrong direction.
Joining his US counterpart, Indian-origin Alok Sharma, the UK minister in charge of the UN COP26 summit in Glasgow, said great to speak with John Kerry about the UK’s plans for COP26.
“As partners, the UK and the US are committed to working closely together to tackle climate change, and deliver a greener future,” he tweeted.
A painful period in American politics is over, remarked former UN Environment Executive Director Erik Solheim.
“The US flag of United States is back in the Paris agreement. Let’s celebrate,” he remarked.
Solheim, the former Norwegian diplomat, politician and environment minister, had told IANS that he was inspired by the life and thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi in the global fight against climate change.
He played a crucial role in 2018 as the UN Environment chief in convincing India to phase out single-use plastics by 2022, a major achievement in his crusade against plastic pollution.
Kerry, who is one of the leading architects of the Paris climate pact, in his maiden speech said the US need to phase out coal five times faster than “we have been (based on the comparison with the trend from 2013-2018)”, increase tree cover five times faster, ramp up renewable energy six times faster and transition to electric vehicles at a rate 22 times faster.
Reaching net-zero global carbon emissions as early as 2050 will take a wholesale transformation of the global economy. And the success of that transformation will depend in large part on leadership from the private sector — firms, investors, and innovators, an optimist Kerry added.
Hailing the US decision to re-enter the Paris agreement, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday said he warmly welcomed President Biden’s steps to join the growing coalition of governments, cities, states, businesses and people taking ambitious action to confront the climate crisis.
“Following last year’s Climate Ambition Summit, countries producing half of global carbon pollution had committed to carbon neutrality. Today’s commitment by President Biden brings that figure to two-thirds.
“But there is a very long way to go. The climate crisis continues to worsen and time is running out to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius and build more climate-resilient societies that help to protect the most vulnerable,” Guterres said.
“We look forward to the leadership of the USin accelerating global efforts towards net zero, including by bringing forward a new nationally determined contribution (NDC) with ambitious 2030 targets and climate finance in advance of COP26 in Glasgow later this year,” the UN chief said, adding that he’s committed to working closely with President Biden and other leaders to overcome the climate emergency, and recover better from Covid-19.
UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa thanked Biden for bringing the US back into the Paris Agreement and said: “I am looking forward to seeing ambitious targets in the US NDC to accelerate climate action.”
NDCs are national climate action plans under the Paris Agreement which describe how each country plans to contribute to reaching the agreement’s goals.
The Paris Agreement will enter into force for the US on February 19.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)