The United States has rejoined the Paris Agreement. This marks a critical step for the health of our country, our ocean and our planet.
The Paris Agreement is a legally-binding agreement on climate change that was signed in 2015 by almost 200 counties. As signers, these countries committed to identifying emissions reduction goals, reporting on those goals and ultimately mitigating their greenhouse gas emissions to limit the global average temperature increase to below 1.5 °C above pre-industrial temperatures.
The Paris Agreement was—and is—groundbreaking. It marked the largest global effort to address the effects of climate change, and under the Obama administration, the United States was a major leader of the initiative.
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In 2017, President Trump announced that he would withdraw the United States from this critical climate agreement. This was especially monumental considering the United States is one of the top emitters of carbon pollution in the world and we have an obligation to the rest of the world to lead in emissions reductions. This decision was not only short-sighted, it was a message to the world that the United States would choose to ignore the threat of climate change and would be an untrustworthy partner when it comes to tackling climate change.
Of course, this couldn’t be further from the truth—many Americans are living with the harsh daily realities of climate change. Fishermen are struggling as fish stocks move north as the ocean warms. Oyster growers in Washington have already suffered massive losses because of ocean acidification. Communities in Alaska are bracing for a future where they will have to abandon their ancestral homes and become climate refugees. West Coast residents are seeing their homes and towns decimated by climate change-fueled fires.
Despite Trump’s anti-climate policies, many Americans took climate action into their own hands. Business and state and local governments committed to working toward the goals of the Paris Agreement, even in the absence of federal leadership. These coalitions that committed to limiting climate change accounted for almost 70% of the U.S. GDP, half of its greenhouse gas production and almost two-thirds of the U.S. population.
People want climate action—almost 70% of U.S. voters support participating in the Paris Agreement. By rejoining, President Biden is acting on behalf of the American people and sending a powerful message that his administration is ready to prioritize climate action.
This year’s UN climate change conference will be an important milestone in the fight against climate change. All eyes will be on President Biden as a climate-conscious leader of a country with one of the highest greenhouse gas emissions to lead by example. In the run-up to the conference, we hope the President takes ambitious action to reduce U.S. emissions. We look forward to seeing his administration’s plans to become carbon-neutral by 2050, including his plan for sustainable ocean-based climate solutions, from increasing offshore renewable energy to stopping the loss of coastal ecosystems that store carbon.
We are grateful to President Biden and his administration for prioritizing climate change within his first 100 days in office—our ocean, communities and all of us will benefit. We are optimistic this is a sign of great ocean climate action to come.