The U.S. is returning to the Paris climate agreement, an international accord that sets rules aimed at countering global warming. It will focus on such goals as advancing renewable energy technology and the expanded use of electric vehicles, leading the world in decarbonization. Incoming President Joe Biden has plans to “move ambitiously” toward this goal.
On Nov. 3, one day after the U.S. presidential election, the U.S. formally withdrew from the Paris climate agreement.
This withdrawal came at President Donald Trump’s strong behest; a climate change skeptic, he claimed that the Paris agreement imposed “draconian financial and economic burdens” on the U.S.
On the other hand, Biden, who is known to be an environmental advocate, had a leading hand in developing the Paris climate agreement as vice president under former President Barack Obama’s administration.
The Biden campaign promised to “ensure the U.S. achieves a 100% clean energy economy and reaches net-zero emissions no later than 2050,” and Biden has declared that, from the first day of his administration, the U.S. will return to the Paris climate agreement.
If the U.S. announces to the U.N. its intention to rejoin the agreement, the return will become official 30 days after the announcement date.
However, returning is not the only issue. Within 100 days after Biden takes office, the U.S. will host a world climate summit during which it will likely propose higher greenhouse gas emission curtailment goals to leaders of the nations with the highest emissions, signaling an immediate first step toward the work ahead.
Regarding future trade pacts, trading nations that are part of the Paris climate agreement must comply with the carbon emission targets. The agreement will impose a carbon tax on any manufactured goods from nations that do not comply.*
Domestically, the Biden plan will invest $2 trillion over four years in infrastructure for renewable energy, with the goal of completely achieving carbon emission-free electric power generation by 2035. The plan will also focus on measures such as using energy-storage batteries, the expanded use of electric vehicles, energy conservation in buildings and households, and the development of hydroelectric power.
The European Union has already begun to implement plans for its own “green recovery” plan aimed at reviving a stagnant economy devastated by COVID-19 through investing in renewable energy.
For example, by 2050, offshore wind power will have the capacity to create 300 gigawatts of power. This production is equivalent to that of 300 nuclear power plants.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga stated at the last summit of the Group of 20 industrial and emerging-market nations that Japan will “lead international society in realizing a decarbonized world.” But without giving up the commitment to coal and nuclear power, he has not been able to lay out a concrete path toward developing renewable energy.
Renewable energy makes up less than 20% of Japan’s energy production, and about half that amount is hydropower. Undeniably, Japan seems to be lagging compared to China, which is already at close to 30% renewable energy.
Renewable energy is no longer a new driving force for the world economy. The U.S. policy shift will accelerate the flow of progress.
We hope to see the U.S. and international community aiming to revive a new wave of switching over to renewable energy.
*Translator’s note: The Paris climate agreement does not impose a carbon tax, and the Biden plan does not explicitly call for one, although it does call for an “enforcement mechanism” that could possibly include such a tax.
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