Seems like just yesterday we were celebrating the great promise of the 21st Century – the Paris Accord. Can you believe, it is now five years on (260 weeks or so this December) since the meeting in the “City of Lights” of the Conference of Parties (“COP 21”, a/k/a the U.N. Paris Climate Conference). This was the 21st meeting of the global assemblage focused on climate change challenges.
The Promise of Paris was the coming together of the world’s sovereign states – the family of nations -- to address once more what for many if not all of the states is an existential threat: climate change. The parties agreed to a binding, universal agreement – the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (“INDC”) to attempt to limit global warming to 2.7C by 2100.
The United States of America was prominent among leading economies at the Paris gathering, signaling the intention to play a significant role in addressing climate matters. In fact, the final agreement was signed in New York City on Earth Day in April 2016.
Promises made, promises broken – in his campaigning and then almost immediately upon taking office, President Donald J. Trump said the U.S. would leave the historic agreement and near the end of his term in 2020 just about completed the exit. To the family of the world’s nations was this message: Do it without the United States of America.
Then, the recent good news: President-Elect Joseph Biden has indicated that his would be the “climate administration” beginning in January 2021 and quickly named former Secretary of State to be his “climate czar”, the influential voice on the world stage to signal the USA is back in addressing the challenges of climate change. Secretary of State John Kerry was the U.S. representative to the COP 21 meetings in Paris and guided the nation’s inclusion in the Paris Agreement.
Forward to 2020: This is a climate emergency, President-Elect Biden said, and former US Senator and Secretary of State Kerry would lead the effort to elevate the nation’s response to the ever-escalating crisis, influencing policy and diplomatic initiatives on the world stage. (Secretary Kerry will officially be on the National Security Council and report to the President of the United States after January 2021.)
Speaking to ProPublica, Secretary Kerry said “…the issues of climate change and human migration are intertwined… people are moving to places where they think they can live…and they will fight over places they want to move to… we will have millions, tens of millions of climate migrants…”
Come 2021, the family of nations can begin to celebrate – the United States of America will be back on the front lines in meeting myriad challenges related to the climate crisis.
As we prepared this issue of the newsletter, President-Elect Biden named his dream team of climate change champions to lead the nation’s efforts: Gina McCarthy, former head of the US EPA, will be the domestic climate change advisor (heading the White House Office of Climate Policy). Governor Jennifer Granholm is the nominee to head the Department of Energy (her home state of Michigan is the home of the auto industry).
Congresswoman Deb Haaland will be the first Native American when confirmed to be named to a cabinet post. (She’s member of the federally-recognized Pueblo of Laguna, the New Mexico tribe whose 500,000 acres of land are near to Albuquerque. The refer to themselves as “Kawaik People”.) As Secretary of the Interior, she will have responsibility for jurisdiction over tens of millions of acres of tribal lands). Interior’s Department of Indian Affairs (BIA) is charged with “…promoting safe and quality living environments, strong communities, self-sufficiency and enhancing protection of the lives, prosperity and well-being of American Indians and Alaska Natives”.
Michael S. Regan, who worked in both George W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations, and who is head of North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality, is Biden’s nominee to head the US Environmental Protection Agency. He will have the daunting task for rebuilding the nation’s environmental regulations that were unraveled during the Trump Administration.
Brenda Mallory, experienced federal government attorney, will had the Council on Environmental Quality.
This is also a team, Biden and supporters point out, “that looks like America”.
Leveraging the strategies, policies, actions, and programs designed to address climate change challenges, the team and colleagues will “build back better” with green infrastructure initiatives at the core.
This week we bring you a selection of current news and opinion and shared perspectives on the Paris Accord, now five years in. As we near year-end 2021 much of the news is about climate, climate, climate in the context of the peaceful transition of power in this, the world’s most influential democracy. A nation that for many years had been that Shining City on a Hill for other peoples and nations. Will the USA be that again? Stay Tuned to climate change crisis responses that have the potential to be at the heart of many of the new administration’s public policy-making efforts. On to 2021…
This is just the introduction of G&A's Sustainability Highlights newsletter this week. Click here to view the full issue.
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