Most of the country is waiting breathlessly for the results of the Presidential election. With the added complications of the pandemic and absentee voting, a race that could have naturally drawn out has become even more painful to wait for. In the midst of all this, today the United States officially exited the Paris climate agreement. This move to leave the agreement is the first by any country in the world.

The United States was officially launched on this path a year ago but was unable to leave until today. This move is great news. While reducing carbon-emissions and improving the environment is a goal we all can get behind, ineffective international agreements are not the way to get there. As I highlighted in a recent policy focus, “Innovating Our Way to a Cleaner Environment,” the United States has long been a climate leader and we have an impressive track record of developing new technologies to fight new challenges, including climate change, and these innovations are what have led to tremendous improvements in our environment. 

If Biden wins, this momentous step may not matter much. Biden has pledged to rejoin the agreement “on day one” if he becomes president. 

Inside Climate News describes the steps needed to rejoin the agreement: 

After sending a letter to the United Nations Secretary General, the United States would once again become a party to the Paris Agreement 30 days later, said Michael Burger, executive director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University. Around the same time, the U.S. would also need to submit a new national emissions reduction pledge, he added.

They continue: 

And if it’s backed up with ambitious domestic climate policies, a green recovery from the pandemic, support from Congress and a renewed push for international collaboration on various climate initiatives, the U.S. reentry could help reinvigorate worldwide efforts to transition to a net-zero carbon economy by 2050.

A net-zero carbon economy may sound nice, but in reality that entails a massive loss of economic activity — and that translates into failing standards of living, especially for those worst off around the world. The future of the U.S.’s status with the climate agreement is tied, as are so many other issues, to the results of this election. 

But regardless of what happens with the climate agreement, the U.S. can and will continue to make environmental progress, so long as we continue to encourage innovation.