The Paris Agreement is an international treaty adopted by nearly every country on earth in 2015 to address climate change and its negative consequences. The landmark accord aims to:

  • significantly lower global greenhouse gas emissions to limit the global temperature increase in this century to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels
  • pursue the means to restrict the rise to 1.5 degrees

The 32-page Paris Agreement was finalized over two weeks during the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and adopted on December 12, 2015. Since 2015, 197 nations have endorsed the Paris Agreement, with 190 having solidified their support with formal approval.

President Barack Obama entered the United States into the agreement under international law through executive authority because the treaty didn’t impose any new legal obligations on the country. During this announcement, President Obama said, “A world that is safer and more secure, more prosperous, and more free.” The country’s official entry was in September 2016 after it submitted its proposal for participation, and the agreement went into force on November 4, 2016.

However, President Donald Trump, who has claimed that climate change is a “hoax,” announced in June 2017 that the US plans to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. The withdrawal went into effect on November 4, 2020. President Trump said that he did so to “fulfill my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens.”

Come November 2020, citizens of the US elected Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to power as President and Vice President of the US. One of President Joe Biden’s executive orders on day one of holding office was reversing Trump’s decision and rejoining the Paris Agreement. On his first day in the White House, President Biden wrote to the United Nations Secretary-General, informing of the United States’ intention.

On February 19, 2021, after a 30-day notice period, the US once again became a part of the global initiative to combat climate change. Biden’s plan is one of the most comprehensive ones ever undertaken by a US president.

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