US President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to rejoin the Paris climate accord on the first day of his presidency, as world leaders staged a virtual gathering to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the international pact aimed at curbing global warming.
Heads of state and government from over 70 countries joined the online event hosted by France, Britain, Italy, Chile and the United Nations, to pledge greater efforts in cutting the greenhouse gas emissions that fuel global warming.
The United States, which quit the Paris accord under President Donald Trump, wasn’t represented at the federal level.
In a statement, Biden noted that the US had been key to negotiating the 2015 agreement, which has since been ratified by almost all countries around the world.
“The United States will rejoin the Paris Agreement on day one of my presidency,” he said. “I’ll immediately start working with my counterparts around the world to do all that we possibly can, including by convening the leaders of major economies for a climate summit within my first 100 days in office.”
Biden reiterated his campaign pledge that his administration will set a target of cutting US emissions to net zero “no later than 2050.”
Experts say commitments put forward by the international community in the past five years have already improved the long-term outlook on climate change, making the worst-case scenarios less likely by the end of the century. But wildfires in the Amazon, Australia and America, floods in Bangladesh and East Africa, and record temperatures in the Arctic have highlighted the impact an increase of 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.2 Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times is already having on the planet.
The Paris agreement aims to cap global warming at well under 2C (3.6F), ideally no more than 1.5C (2.7F), by the end of the century.
Achieving this will require a phasing-out of fossil fuels and better protection for the world’s carbon-soaking forests, wetlands and oceans.
Biden insisted that the dramatic economic shifts needed would be positive for American workers.
“We have before us an enormous economic opportunity to create jobs and prosperity at home and export clean American-made products around the world, harnessing our climate ambition in a way that is good for American workers and the US economy,” he said.