Climate Change

The U.S. Officially Withdraws from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change

Biden would rejoin on day one of his administration.


The United States withdrew today from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The agreement aims at limiting the increase of global average temperature to below 2 degrees Celsius above its pre-industrial level. Signatories to the agreement each make voluntary pledges, called nationally determined contributions (NDC), outlining how they plan to address the problem of man-made climate change.

Back in 2017, President Donald Trump made the decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement. On November 4, 2019, the Department of State submitted to the United Nations the notification that our country was formally leaving the Paris Agreement. Under that agreement, the withdrawal takes effect one year from delivery of the notification.

Back in 2015, the Obama administration submitted its NDC promising to reduce the United States' emissions of greenhouse gases by 2020 to below 17 percent of its 2005 level, and by 26 to 28 percent by 2025. According to a January 2020 report by the Rhodium Group consultancy, U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases had by 2019 cumulatively declined 12.3 percent relative to their 2005 levels. The decline largely resulted from the shift from coal to natural gas to generate electricity. The report added that the fact that since the U.S. had achieved no net reductions in greenhouse gas emissions over the past three years, aiming to meet the Obama NDC targets would be "extremely challenging."

Of course, by withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, the Trump administration has basically made those Obama-era NDC emissions reduction goals null and void. In its 2020 reference case that assumes no new laws or regulations aiming to cut emissions, the Energy Information Administration projects that U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas, will be basically flat through 2050.

Should Joe Biden win the presidential election, he has promised to re-enter the Paris Agreement on day one of his administration, when presumably he would reaffirm the NDC commitments made by the Obama administration to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2025.