America Rejoins World Accord to Limit Climate Crisis

The Bobcat wildfire, viewed from the Mount Wilson Observatory above Los Angeles, California. Sept. 18, 2020 (Photo by Doc Searl)


NEW YORK, New York, February 21, 2021 (ENS) – The community of nations welcomed the United States back into the Paris Climate Accord on Friday with the approval of American conservationists, politicians on both sides of the aisle and thousands of non-federal climate leaders who launched America is All In, a coalition to drive a society-wide mobilization for bold climate ambition.

President Joe Biden signs his first executive orders in the Oval Office, Jan. 20, 2021 (Photo courtesy Biden Administration)

On January 20, his first day in office, President Joe Biden signed the document that would bring the United States back into the Paris Agreement. The United States officially re-entered the legally binding international climate agreement Friday, and across America people marked this special day.

The United States was an original signatory to the Paris Agreement, in fact, then-Secretary of State John Kerry helped to negotiate it and signed the agreement on behalf of the United States in 2016. It was adopted by 196 Parties in Paris on December 12, 2015, at the annual UN climate conference and entered into force on November 4, 2016.

The goal of the agreement is to limit global warming to well below 2°Celsius, preferably to 1.5° compared with pre-industrial levels.

Countries set their own climate emissions targets, participation is voluntary and there is no enforcement mechanism, yet former President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the agreement effective November 2020, saying that the agreement would “undermine” the U.S. economy, and put the U.S. “at a permanent disadvantage.”

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres joined U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry at an up-tempo virtual event marking the United States’ reentry into the Paris Accord. The event took place as countries are under pressure to raise the level of climate action and ambition in advance of the UN’s Glasgow Climate Conference, COP26, now scheduled for November after it was postponed for a year due to the pandemic.

“We rejoin the international climate effort with humility and with ambition,” said Kerry. “Humility knowing that we lost four years during which America was absent from the table. And humility in knowing that today no country and no continent is getting the job done.”

Kerry, Guterres
U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, left, and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres take part in a virtual event to mark the U.S. rejoining the Paris Agreement, Feb. 19, 2021 (Screengrab from video courtesy United Nations)

“But also with ambition, knowing that Paris alone will not do what science tells us we must do together,” Kerry said. “At the COP in November, this November, when we go to Glasgow, all nations must raise our sights, must raise ambition together, or we will all fail together.”

“For all of us here partaking in this, in this moment failure is not an option,” Kerry said. “And that’s why raising the ambition is so vitally important.”

Guterres and Kerry stressed the critical urgency of ambitious climate action during the opening session of the virtual 2021 Global Engagement Summit hosted by the UN Association of the United States, UNA-USA, a nonprofit grassroots organization that advocates political and public support for the United Nations among Americans.

Kerry said that to keep even a 66 percent probability of keeping global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees, we need to cut global emissions in half by 2030 – in just nine years.

“So that means we need to phase out coal five times faster than we have been,” Kerry said. “We need to increase tree cover five times faster. We need to ramp up renewable energy six times faster. We need to transition to electric vehicles at a rate 22 times faster.”

Kerry said, “We need the United States and every country to determine they will get on a path toward net-zero emissions by 2050.

In Washington, newly confirmed Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed confidence in the accord, saying, “The Paris Agreement is an unprecedented framework for global action. We know because we helped design it and make it a reality. Its purpose is both simple and expansive: to help us all avoid catastrophic planetary warming and to build resilience around the world to the impacts from climate change we already see.”

Secretary-General Guterres explained how serious the situation is. “The Paris Agreement is an historic achievement. But the commitments made so far are not enough. And even those commitments made in Paris are not being met. The warning signs are everywhere.”

“The six years since 2015 have been the six hottest years on record,” the UN chief reminded everyone. “Carbon dioxide levels are at record highs. Fires, floods and other extreme weather events are getting worse, in every region. If we don’t change course, we could face a catastrophic temperature rise of more than 3 degrees this century. This year, 2021, is pivotal.”

The Bobcat wildfire, viewed from the Mount Wilson Observatory above Los Angeles, California. Sept. 18, 2020 (Photo by Doc Searls)

“COP26 in Glasgow will be a make it or break it occasion,” Guterres said. “Governments will take decisions that will determine the future of people and planet.”

The United States, together with all members of the G20, has a decisive role in delivering our three main objectives.

First, the long-term vision. A central objective for the United Nations this year is to create a truly global coalition for net-zero emissions by 2050.

In the past year, countries representing 70 percent of the world economy and 65 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions committed to net zero. I hope that the United [States] will formally join this coalition very soon, as pledged by President Biden, and will present its concrete plan to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.”

Second, delivering a decade of transformation. The science is clear: we need exponential progress on reducing emissions now.

We expect all governments to present more ambitious concrete and credible Nationally Determined Contributions for the next 10 years, by COP26 in November. We rely on the United States to build on this with an ambitious and credible Nationally Determined Contribution for 2030, aligned with President Biden’s commitment to achieve net zero emissions before 2050.

Third, are the actions we need now, Guterres said.

First we must recover from the pandemic by investing “in a green economy that will help to heal the planet and its people, and create well-paying, stable jobs to ensure more equitable and sustainable prosperity,” he said.

Guterres urged the world to “Phase out coal” and “Stop investing in fossil fuel projects that ruin people’s health, destroy biodiversity and contribute to the climate catastrophe.”

“Shift the tax burden from income to carbon; from consumers to polluters,” the UN head advised.

“We also need to close the finance gap by supporting countries that are suffering the ravaging impacts of the climate crisis. That support must reach the countries and people who are most impacted. Women and girls bear the brunt of the climate crisis; fully 80 percent of those displaced by climate change are women,” Guterres said with compassion.

He urged all G7 countries to deliver concrete results on finance at their summit in June, saying, “Those that have not done so already must commit to doubling their climate finance.” And the UN chief reminded all developed countries to honor their pledge to contribute $100 billion annually to developing countries.

Further, he asked all financial institutions and banks to align their investments with the Paris Agreement by 2024.

“I count on the United States, together with all other G20 members, to rally behind these three main objectives and to engage in the international negotiations that will be needed for success at COP26,” Guterres said.

America is All In Coalition Formed

There is support across much of the United States for limiting global warming, especially now that the country has experienced some terrible wildfires, storms and other extreme weather conditions.

To mark the United States’ return to the Paris Agreement, thousands of non-federal climate leaders launched America is All In, a coalition to drive a society-wide mobilization for bold climate ambition to uphold the country’s commitment to domestic and international climate action.

Already the most expansive coalition of U.S. leaders ever assembled in support of climate action, America Is All In is led by the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Climate Ambition and Solutions Michael Bloomberg, Washington Governor Jay Inslee, Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles, and CommonSpirit Health CEO Lloyd Dean.

“Over the last four years, Americans from across the country have continued pushing forward and cutting emissions, because they understand that fighting climate change strengthens our economy and protects people’s health. They’ve kept us on track to reach our Paris Agreement commitment, and with a strong partner in the White House, we can exceed it,” said Bloomberg, a former mayor of New York City and founder of Bloomberg News.

“We have a lot of work to do, and the more we support cities, states, businesses, and climate leaders across the country, the faster we can make progress. That’s the goal of our new coalition, and we’re looking forward to working with the new administration to build on the progress we’ve made and accelerate it in the lead-up to the COP26 climate summit this November,” Bloomberg said.

America Is All In builds on the leadership shown by the nearly 5,000 cities, states, tribal nations, businesses, and institutions of higher education, faith, healthcare, and culture that rallied to keep the U.S. on a path of climate progress during the Trump Administration.

The coalition will work across sectors—together with the federal government—to not only meet, but to bolster existing U.S. climate goals and align them with science-based targets, accelerating institutional and regional climate action and enabling the Biden-Harris administration to present to the global community a new, ambitious, and achievable national target of reducing emissions at least 50 percent from a 2005 baseline by 2030.

“With the U.S. back in the Paris Agreement, states and local governments are excited to partner with a President who has put climate and environmental justice at the core of his agenda,” said Governor Jay Inslee of Washington State, co-founder and co-chair of US Climate Alliance. “States like mine will continue to lead the way and by combining forces with federal leadership, not only can we cut America’s emissions in half by 2030 but we can and must achieve net zero pollution by 2050.”

“I am honored to serve as co-chair of America Is All In and to support ambitious and critical emission reductions goals,” said Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles. “Cities have been at the forefront of climate action over the past several years and, as progressive leaders, we must continue to play an integral role in building a healthier, more equitable, and resilient future.”

“CommonSpirit Health’s vision of health equity is tied to our common vision for a healthier planet,” said Lloyd H. Dean, CEO of CommonSpirit Health. “We know that a cleaner economy protects the health of our patients, our people and our communities, especially those who are most at risk from climate change. Today, as we are planning our recovery from our current public health crisis, we have an opportunity to create a healthier future. As part of this powerful coalition, we are proud to help represent the voice of healthcare and to encourage health care providers across the country to think critically about their climate impact. Together, we can all advance climate action for a healthier future.”

America Is All In represents a merging and evolution of the movements We Are Still In and America’s Pledge. Over the last four years, We Are Still In, coordinated through Ceres, Climate Nexus, and World Wildlife Fund, with the support of over a dozen other nonprofit organizations, has united thousands of cities, states, tribal nations, companies, colleges, health, faith and cultural institutions committed to ambitious climate action.

Meanwhile, America’s Pledge, a Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative co-led by Rocky Mountain Institute and the University of Maryland Center for Global Sustainability with contributions from World Resources Institute, has quantified and reported on the actions of these leaders to drive down their greenhouse gas emissions consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

With whole-of-government action on climate, America Is All In champions a whole-of-society mobilization to deliver the transformational change that science demands, with the goal of a healthy, prosperous, equitable, and sustainable future.

To learn more or get involved, visit Twitter: @americaisallin #AmericaIsAllIn #AllInOnClimate

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2021. All rights reserved.


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