On inauguration day, President Biden signed an executive order rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement. Climate change has been a hot topic and will continue to be, particularly as the Biden administration has signaled its intention to focus on climate change through various policy measures.
The White House Twitter account released this statement following President Biden’s signing of the executive order:
Mostly false or misleading. Significant errors or omissions. Mostly make believe.
But is the Paris agreement really so important to the effort to reduce carbon emissions?
Supporters and advocates of the Paris agreement have argued that the United States abdicated its climate leadership role in the past few years, particularly when President Trump made the decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement. But the reality is, the Paris agreement isn’t necessary to the fight against climate change, and in fact, the United States has done a better job of leading by example in reducing emissions and improving clean energy technology freed from the shackles of the multilateral agreement.
For example, the U.S. is the only highly-populated country to meet the World Health Organization’s most stringent air quality standards. The U.S. has worked to clean up reliable energy sources and utilize new technologies like carbon capture and storage to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The clean energy sector, including wind and hydropower, in the U.S. has been booming. The U.S. added 29GW of renewable energy capacity in 2020 and is expected to add at least the same amount in the coming year. In fact, U.S. renewable energy consumption surpassed coal for the first time in over 130 years.
This progress and the United States leadership on clean energy and environmental improvements came without the U.S. involvement in the Paris Agreement.
While this move by President Biden to rejoin the Paris agreement comes as no surprise, it is far from certain what this means, if anything, in terms of how the U.S. will work to reduce carbon emissions. The more important step will come when the Biden administration sets the new goals for the U.S. within the agreement.
Considering Biden’s statements and plans for the U.S. to combat climate change, we can expect his administration to set lofty goals. Domestically, this will most likely lead to higher energy expenses for Americans that are already struggling to pay their bills in the pandemic economy. If these goals are coupled with mandates on the types of energy that must be used, it could stifle innovation and discourage the development and adoption of cleaner energy sources, and impede progress, rather than encourage it.
Instead of such destructive policies, the Biden administration should follow the lead of its immediate predecessor and encourage private sector innovation in the energy sector. This is the path forward to create the jobs that Biden has promised in his energy policies, not sweeping regulations and rejoining international agreements that sound good, but do little to actually improve the environment.