President Biden has re-committed the United States to the Paris Agreement, the international agreement to stave off catastrophic global warming.

Mr Biden’s move fulfills an election promise to return to the pact on the first day of his presidency. A letter to the United Nations signed by the President on Wednesday officially launched the 30-day process to reintroduce the United States into the agreement.

What does the decision mean? We have extensive coverage here in the New York Times, but it’s a complex subject and you may be wondering where to start.

In December 2015, almost every country in the world, 195 in all, agreed to the first global pact aimed at reducing emissions of greenhouse gases that warm the planet. It was a landmark diplomatic achievement and the culmination of President Barack Obama’s environmental agenda.

Scientific studies show that if the world’s carbon emissions are not controlled, atmospheric temperatures will continue to rise. Not only will the planet be hotter, but also under rising sea levels, stronger storms, droughts that lead to food shortages and other serious disruptions.

The Biden Administration


Jan. 21, 2021, 1:04 p.m. ET

The idea of ​​the Paris Agreement was that every country, rich or poor, would set targets to curb carbon emissions in order to avert the worst effects of climate change.

Former President Donald J. Trump has called climate change a joke and pledged to “cancel” the Paris deal during his 2016 campaign.

At the beginning of his presidency, Mr. Trump made it clear that joint global action against climate change was incompatible with his “America first” message. He also predicted that the Paris Agreement would hurt the economy. Environmentalists denied the argument that the Paris Agreement would cost jobs.

Mr Trump announced on June 1, 2017 that the United States would withdraw from the agreement. In his speech he cited some dubious dates.

Under the terms of the deal, the United States could not officially leave until November 4, 2020. This happened to be the day after the presidential election, a timeframe that guaranteed the deal would be a campaigning issue for 2020.

While Americans make up just over 4 percent of the world’s population, they are responsible for nearly a third of the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. China is emitting more carbon into the atmosphere today, but the United States has had a long lead in burning coal, oil, and natural gas. Some said it was a moral imperative for the United States to stay in the Paris Pact.