An image of white electric windmills in the sea
Photo by Nicholas Doherty on Unsplash

As President Biden sent a message to the world on his first day in office by signing an executive order for the United States to re-join the Paris Climate Agreement, a political economist at Edge Hill highlights the importance of the symbolic move. 

Only hours after being sworn in as the 46th president of the United States, Joe Biden’s first actions in the Oval Office included re-affirming the nation’s commitment to the largest international effort to curb climate change. 

The US, the world’s second highest carbon emitter, officially withdrew from the Paris accord to limit climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions last year, after Donald Trump began the process in 2017. 

International political economist, Christopher Dent, is a Professor in Economics and International Business at Edge Hill University and leader of SustainNET. 

Professor Dent said: “The United States has one of the highest emissions per head figures in the world – over twice that of Britain’s and the EU average. So, the return of the US at a national level to global efforts to reduce carbon emissions and other greenhouse gas levels will make a big difference on climate action. 

“It is worth noting that many US state governments, such as California, have remained committed to the Paris Agreement, as have a number of high-profile US companies in their ‘Paris Pledges’.” 

Professor Christopher Dent
Professor Christopher Dent

In his inauguration speech, Biden said that America needed to respond to a “climate in crisis” and has placed the climate crisis second only behind the Covid pandemic in his new list of priorities.  

Prof Dent added: “Just as ex-President Trump made it an early priority to withdraw the US federal government from the Paris Agreement to send a signal of his isolationist ‘America First’ foreign policy, President Biden’s move on day one to recommit to this key climate accord sends a strong, emblematic message to the rest of the world that the United States is prepared to take on its global responsibilities and partnerships again.” 

The question that lies ahead is whether the damage left behind by Donald Trump’s administration can be repaired. 

Prof Dent said: “This all depends on whether Biden can convince US Congress to pass new domestic legislation on decarbonising the country’s economy, and what support there is in American society to reduce their significant carbon and other environmental footprints.  

“For the United States to achieve the kinds of goals that European nations like Britain have set themselves on carbon emission reductions will take a significant and sustained political effort by any US President over the years and decades to come. This is a long-term battle but President Biden’s actions are a step in the right direction.”