December 20 2020 – published again in the blog in October 2021 as President Joe Biden travels to the Stockholm meeting of the COP 26.
by Hank Boerner – Chair & Chief Strategist – G&A Institute
Seems like just yesterday we were celebrating the great promise of the 21st Century in 2015 – the Paris Accord. Can you believe, it is now five years on (260 weeks or so this December 2020) 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 (“NDC”) to attempt to limit global warming to 2.7C by 2100.
The United States of America was [then] prominent among leading economies of the world at the Paris gathering, signaling the intention to play a significant role in addressing climate change 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 nearing the end of his term in 2020 had 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 John Kerry 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 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 the last days of 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 20, 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 our commentary for the G&A Sustainability Highlights 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 – she was the state’s governor).
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. They 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.
In the December 2020 issue we brought readers a selection of current news and opinion and shared perspectives on the Paris Accord, now five years in.
As we neared year-end 2020 much of the news was 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 year 2021…
TOP STORIES in the Newsletter Dec 20 2020
Against the above context, we share here a selection of the perspectives on the 5-Year Anniversary of the Paris Agreement. Where we are now as we prepare for the transition year 2021 in the USA:
- The Paris Agreement’s 5th Anniversary: Accelerating the Momentum for Net Zero (Source: BSR)
- Five years after the signing of the Paris Agreement, only 21% of states and regions have been consulted on national climate action plans (Source: CDP)
- US to hold world climate summit early next year and seek to rejoin Paris accord (Source: The Guardian)
- Five years on from the Paris Agreement, we are at a turning point (Source: Al Jazeera)
- The Paris climate pact is 5 years old. Is it working? (Source: Science Magazine)