The wheels to make it happen were set in motion by President Donald Trump years ago, but it wasn’t until the 4th November 2020 that the United States officially withdrew from the Paris Agreement on climate change.
That day happened to coincide with the day that the world watched on as the votes continued to be counted following the US Presidential election.
And so if you’re wondering whether the election results matter to you, in Australia, or in some other part of the world, then at least consider the impact of the result on the Paris Agreement. The final election outcome will have significant consequences for how the world moves forward with this agreement, and what comes next.
The US is the first country to leave the 2015 Paris agreement and so far, no other countries have followed. But under Trump, the US’s stance on climate — including this withdrawal — has made it easier for countries like Australia to present climate change policies aimed at protecting existing industries over innovating and supporting renewable energy sources like wind and solar.
If elected, Joe Biden has promised to rejoin the agreement. His stance on climate action would place significantly more pressure on Australia to do more, especially if we end up even further internationally isolated, leaving us behind with countries like Russia, Saudi Arabia and Brazil.
Trump’s chaotic first time in office has provided a large distraction from international negotiations on moving forward on climate action. He initially announced his intention to withdraw the US from the Paris agreement in 2017, to much fanfare across social media, before officially notifying the United Nations last year. A lengthy waiting period on those intending to leave was negotiated into the original agreement, notably as a means to help cope with a future US president making a decision to exit the deal.
The Agreement was drafted in 2015 with the aim of keeping global temperatures rising to well below 2C above pre-industrial levels and to ultimately aim for an increase of no more than 1.5C.
Continuing on with the agreement, without the participation of the US, significantly waters down its ability to meet its goals. The US represents 15 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and is the world’s largest economy.
But that’s not all. Trump has undermined climate science and will continue to do so in a second term. He’ll go on to further expand the use of fossil fuels and has already (and may continue) to roll back significant environmental regulations. That’s in contrast to Biden who has pledged a massive investment in green infrastructure as part of their efforts to rebuild from the pandemic. Biden may be hampered in the Senate, which looks to remain Republican-controlled, but he won’t be actively undermining international efforts to slow global warming. He looks unlikely to outright deny the science.
This is all yet another reason why the outcome of the US election matters everywhere.