09/27/2017 - Regulatory Tracker

Paris Climate Agreement

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Why it Matters

The United States is the second largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world and the largest historical emitter. America’s approval of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2016 signaled our intention to cooperate globally in reducing our emissions and helping others reduce theirs. Currently, 196 nations have formally adopted the agreement. Under the Trump administration, the US withdrew from the Paris Agreement on Nov. 4, 2020. However, the Biden Administration rejoined on February 19, 2021, and the US has committed to achieving a 50 to 52 percent greenhouse gas emissions reduction from 2005 levels by 2030.

Current Status

On inauguration day Jan. 20, 2021, President Biden formally accepted the Agreement, initiating the process to rejoin the Paris Agreement on Feb. 19, 2021 and ensuing conference of parties—COP26, which took place Oct. 31, 2021 through November 12, 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland. The negotiations focused on adaptation, mitigation, and global climate financing. Some of the major outcomes include:

  • 151 countries, including the US, submitted new nationally determined contributions (NDCs). The UN calculated that these plans would put the world on track for 2.5 degrees C of warming by the end of the century. The Glasgow decision calls on countries to “revisit and strengthen” their 2030 targets by the end of 2022 to align them with the Paris Agreement’s goal of 1.5 degrees C of warming.
  • The Parties recommitted to provide $100 billion annually in climate finance from developed to developing nations, starting in 2023. Countries did not meet the existing target to provide this money starting in 2020.
  • Parties agreed on a rulebook to govern “Article 6” international carbon markets, including norms to prevent double counting of emission reductions. However, the rules also allow the carry-over of old carbon credits generated since 2013 under the Kyoto Protocol. Click here for more on Article 6 of the Paris Agreement.
  • Parties agreed to an Enhanced Transparency Framework to account for and report targets and emissions.

Timeline of Events

obama administration
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April 22, 2016 The United States signs the Paris Climate Agreement treaty, and commits to reducing domestic greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent,  compared with 2005 levels.

Nov. 4, 2016 The Paris Climate Agreement on greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation, and finance enters into force, once at least 55 nations formally joined by submitting a plan for addressing climate change.

Trump administration
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June 1, 2017 President Trump announces the United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement.

Feb. 1, 2018 The European Commission announces the European Union will not sign trade agreements with countries that did not ratify the Paris Climate Agreement.

Nov. 4, 2019 The Trump Administration formally notifies the United Nations that the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris Agreement. The withdrawal process will take one year, making withdrawal effective on Nov. 4, 2020.

Nov. 4, 2020 The United States officially withdraws from the Paris Agreement.

Biden administration
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Jan. 20, 2021 President Biden formally accepts the Agreement, initiating the process to rejoin the Paris Agreement.

Jan. 27, 2021 President Biden, in EO 14008,  instructs the government to immediately begin developing a new Nationally Determined Contribution to be released at a Leaders’ Climate Summit being planned for April.

Feb. 19, 2021 The US rejoins the Paris Agreement.

April 22, 2021 The US hosts a virtual Leaders Summit on Climate and the Biden administration commits to reducing US greenhouse gas emissions by 50 to 52 percent in 2030 from 2005 levels.

Oct. 14, 2021 President Biden announces a team of 12 cabinet members and high-level officials that will attend the conference talks, including White House climate advisor Gina McCarthy, US climate envoy John Kerry, EPA administrator Michael Regan, and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.

Nov. 7, 2021 In the first week of the COP26 conference, the US delegation takes a number of different climate actions including making commitments to: 

  • Reduce methane emissions 30 percent by 2030 compared with 2020 levels. As part of the US’s commitment, EPA issues a proposed rule to regulate both new and existing sources of methane in the oil and gas sector. (For more on the proposed rule, see EELP’s Regulatory Tracker page). Over 100 countries joined the pledge; China, India, and Russia did not. 
  • Provide $3 billion in climate adaptation financing for developing nations per year starting in FY 2024 as part of the President’s Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience (PREPARE) initiative. The funding will need to be approved by Congress.
  • End and reverse deforestation worldwide by 2030. Of the $19.2 billion pledged in private and public funds, the US commits $9 billion to conserve and restore forests. The signing countries together represent roughly 85% of the world’s forest-covered land, including Brazil, Russia, Canada, and Indonesia. 

The US does not join 40 other nations that commit to phase out coal, including India and China. 

Nov. 10, 2021 The US and China announce a joint agreement to “enhance ambition” on climate change, with China committing to reduce methane emissions for the first time. However, the agreement does not include an emissions ceiling or timetable for China to reduce its emissions.

Nov. 13, 2021 COP26 concludes in Glasgow after two weeks. The negotiations focused on adaptation, mitigation, and global financing. Additional outcomes include:

  • 151 countries, including the US, submit new nationally determined contributions (NDCs). The UN calculates that these plans put the world on track for 2.5 degrees C of warming by the end of the century. The Glasgow decision calls on countries to “revisit and strengthen” their 2030 targets by the end of 2022 to align them with the Paris Agreement’s goal of 1.5 degrees C of warming.
  • The Parties recommit to provide $100 billion annually in climate finance from developed to developing nations, starting in 2023. Countries did not meet the existing target to provide this money starting in 2020.
  • Parties agree on a rulebook to govern “Article 6” international carbon markets, including norms to prevent double counting of emission reductions. However, the rules also allow the carry-over of old carbon credits generated since 2013 under the Kyoto Protocol. For more on Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, see additional resources here.
  • Parties agree to an Enhanced Transparency Framework to account for and report targets and emissions.