To Re-Enter Paris Agreement, U.S. Must Draft A New Climate Pledge

Donald Trump’s brief withdrawal from the Paris Agreement invalidated the United States’ 2005 climate pledge—which many saw as inadequate—creating an opportunity for Joe Biden to make a more ambitious commitment.
Such a commitment, say two leading diplomats, could shift the political momentum of the world.
“The United States would have to have what's called an NDC—or a nationally determined contribution in the language of the convention—essentially articulating what its plan and pledge would be,” said Jonathan Pershing, the former lead climate negotiator for the U.S.
“So this would replace the previous NDC,” Pershing said last week in a Stanford University webinar. The previous NDC no longer has legal standing, he said, because the U.S. has briefly ceased to be a party to the agreement, “and that period of withdrawal would mean that you'd have to redo it.”
In 2016 the United States submitted an NDC that pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 26 percent by 2025. The trajectory was easily met, but not necessarily because of policy. The coal industry collapsed, along with its high emissions, because of competition from cheap fracking gas and then cheaper renewables. Now the COVID recession has the U.S. drifting toward its pledge, according to Climate Action Tracker.
President-Elect Biden’s more ambitious plan is to render the power sector carbon-free by 2035, the whole country carbon-neutral by 2050.
It will be as simple for Biden to re-enter the Paris Agreement, Pershing said, as it was for Trump to leave it. He can do it by executive order. The more complex task is drafting the new NDC.
“It's a question of what would the new target be, and what will the expectations of other nations around the world be of the new target?” said Pershing, who now heads the environmental program at the Hewlett Foundation.
Nations were due to update their NDCs at the end of 2020, a process that for most has been delayed a year because of COVID. But instead of notching up its old NDC, the U.S. could re-invent it.
“Will it be consistent with what the science calls for, which is essentially a trajectory to net zero?” Pershing asked. “Will it be consistent with what the U.S. can deliver at home based on congressional capacity, based on what executive orders could contribute, or even based on what the states individually might do on their own, independent of federal level programs? I think those questions are to be resolved.”
A strong U.S. commitment will resonate around the globe, said Fatih Birol, head of the International Energy Agency, who appeared with Pershing in the webinar sponsored by the Stanford Precourt Institute for Energy.
“I would think that it would create a tremendous momentum—a political momentum,” Birol said, “and this momentum comes at a time when several countries have come up with a net-zero target, net-zero pledges, so from that point of view if such a development takes place it will give a political momentum, a commanding momentum in terms of innovation. I would even say it could it would give a strong signal to the investors around the world.”
MORE FROM FORBESIntergovernmental Panel Links Pandemic Risk To Meat ConsumptionBy Jeff McMahon

Tip Jar: If you found value on this page, please consider tipping the author.