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11 • 09 • 2020

America’s Future in the Paris Climate Agreement

By Stefanie Sekich-Quinn

America’s RSVP to participate in the Paris Climate Agreement was officially withdrawn by President Trump—making the U.S. the only major county not involved with the historic, global agreement. Fortunately, President elect Joe Biden, who was declared the winner of the presidential race over the weekend, has vowed to renew America’s commitment to the imperative climate change agreement. 

Surfrider has written about and encouraged participation in this groundbreaking climate agreement for years.  We have summarized global events that have taken place over the past few years around the Paris Climate Agreement.  In addition, nearly 2,500 Surfrider members and supporters wrote the President Trump asking him to stay in the agreement.  

The Paris Agreement brings together more than 190 nations to tackle one of humanity’s greatest challenges—curbing climate change by reducing emissions and advancing adaptation efforts. Negotiations around the Paris Agreement have been occurring since 1992.  While there have been several iterations, a main focus of the agreement is to keep global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius which scientists believe is the critical threshold we must maintain in order to avoid a climate catastrophe.

While the U.S. will rejoin the agreement, the true tragedy of our withdrawal is that we ostracized ourselves from global partners who spent decades crafting the Paris Agreement.  And most importantly, we missed four years of important climate action under the Trump Administration.

It was negligent for the U.S. to withdraw and now we must double down on our commitment to mitigate and adapt to climate change.  Fortunately, both the House and Senate issued reports that prescribe remedies to the climate crisis.  In addition, Congress recently introduced the Ocean Climate Solutions Act which leverages the enormous power of the ocean to drive solutions to the climate crisis. Key elements of the bill include banning new offshore oil drilling and protecting 30% of ocean habitats by 2030 to enhance “blue carbon” storage. Finally, Surfrider will push the Biden administration and Congress to provide critical funding for coastal management and climate science, including NOAA programs that help states and communities plan for sea level rise and extreme weather events. Surfrider also looks forward to working with the Biden Administration on the climate crisis.  President elect Biden laid out a robust climate plan that will:

  • Ensure the U.S. achieves a 100% clean energy economy and reaches net-zero emissions no later than 2050. 
  • Build a stronger, more resilient nation.
  • Rally the rest of the world to meet the threat of climate change.
  • Stand up to the abuse of power by polluters who disproportionately harm communities of color and low-income communities
  • Fulfill our obligation to workers and communities who powered our industrial revolution and subsequent decades of economic growth

Climate scientists continue to send warnings that society has roughly 10 years to turn the climate crisis around. This past fire and hurricane seasons are an indication of what’s to come with our changing climate if we do not act fast.  Surfrider will continue to work with our partners at the local, state and federal levels to ensure decision makers support global efforts to curb climate change.  In addition, we will continue our ongoing to work around the country to advocate for greenhouse gas reductions and help local communities plan and prepare for sea level rise and coastal climate change impacts.