President Biden signed an executive order at the White House just hours after being sworn in, to reverse the previous administration’s withdrawal from the 2015 accord, which seeks to limit global warming and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“I warmly welcome President Biden’s steps to re-enter the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and join the growing coalition of governments, cities, states, businesses and people taking ambitious action to confront the climate crisis”, the UN chief said in a statement.
The US was among 194 countries that signed the Agreement in December 2015 under then President, Barack Obama.
His successor, Donald Trump, announced three years later that the country would withdraw from the treaty, a decision which became effective last November.
Long road to carbon neutrality
The Paris Agreement requires governments to commit to increasingly ambitious climate action through plans known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs).
The Secretary-General recalled that countries producing half of all global carbon pollution committed to carbon neutrality, or net-zero emissions, following a summit held last month.
“Today’s commitment by President Biden brings that figure to two-thirds. But there is a very long way to go”, he said.
“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.”
Climate crisis and COVID-19
The Secretary-General underlined his commitment to work with the new US President and other world leaders to address the climate crisis and COVID-19 recovery.
Last year, the UN was forced to postpone its latest global climate change conference, known as COP26, due to the pandemic.
“We look forward to the leadership of United States in accelerating global efforts towards net zero, including by bringing forward a new nationally determined contribution with ambitious 2030 targets and climate finance in advance of COP26 in Glasgow later this year”, the statement said.
In his inauguration speech, President Biden made it clear that addressing “a climate in crisis” was a priority, noting that “a cry for survival comes from planet itself”.
Senior officials from across the UN system have congratulated the new administration in Washington.
Inger Andersen, head of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), tweeted that her agency looks forward to working closely with President Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris to strengthen climate action, “to address a planet in crisis, and to build a just and green transition for all.”