World leaders breathed a sigh of relief that the US under President Joe Biden is rejoining the global effort to curb climate change, a cause that his predecessor had shunned over the past four years.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron were among those welcoming Biden’s decision to rejoin the Paris climate accord, reversing a key policy of former US president Donald Trump, in the first hours of his presidency on Wednesday.
“Rejoining the Paris Agreement is hugely positive news,” Johnson wrote on Twitter.
The UK is hosting this year’s UN climate summit.
With Biden, “we will be stronger to face the challenges of our time. Stronger to build our future. Stronger to protect our planet,” Macron said.
The Paris accord, forged in the French capital in 2015, commits countries to put forward plans for reducing their emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, which is released from burning fossil fuels.
The US had formally left the pact in November last year.
“The United States’ departure from it has definitely diminished our capacities to change things, concretely to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions,” Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said.
“Now we are dealing with an administration that is conscious of what is at stake and that is very committed to use the voice of the United States, a voice that is very powerful on the international level,” she said.
Biden on Wednesday launched a series of climate-friendly efforts to bring Washington back in step with the rest of the world.
“A cry for survival comes from the planet itself,” Biden said in his inaugural address.
Experts have said that efforts to keep global warming well below 2°C, ideally 1.5°C, as agreed in the Paris accord would struggle without the contribution of the US, which is the world’s second-biggest carbon emitter.
Scientists have said that time is running out to reach that goal, because the world has warmed 1.2°C since pre-industrial times.
Italy said that the US’ return to the accord would help other countries reach their commitments.
“Italy looks forward to working with the US to build a sustainable planet and ensure a better future for the next generations,” Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte wrote on Twitter.
Biden has appointed a large team to tackle climate change.
Former US secretary of state John Kerry, named as the president’s special climate envoy, on Thursday took part in a virtual event with Italian industry, at which he touted the “green economy” as an engine for jobs and said that the US planned to make up for time lost over the past four years.
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