More than three years after former President Donald Trump announced plans to pull the United States out of the multinational Paris Agreement, America has once again joined the sweeping environmental framework, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Friday.

“Now, as momentous as our joining the Agreement was in 2016 — and as momentous as our rejoining is today — what we do in the coming weeks, months, and years is even more important,” Blinken said in a statement trumpeting the fulfillment of one of President Biden’s very first presidential priorities.

While Biden expressly rejected the progressive “Green New Deal” environmental proposal during the 2020 presidential campaign, he has made a number of modest — but concrete — steps toward addressing climate change since assuming office in January. In addition to prioritizing the U.S.’s return to the Paris climate accords, he also halted construction on the Keystone XL oil pipeline, detailed plans to transition all federal government vehicles into an electric fleet, and installed former Secretary of State John Kerry as his administration’s “climate czar.”

In terms of day-to-day activity, the return to the accords will likely have little impact for now. The agreement is just that — an agreement between signatory nations on target goals for carbon emissions, without any actionable consequences for failure (except, you know, environmental catastrophe). Rather, rejoining the Paris accords essentially functions as a promise by the U.S. to try and reach a 25% reduction in 2005 emissions in the next four years. (At our current pace, we’re more likely to hit somewhere in the ballpark of 17%.)


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