Human Written, News, Opinion

It’s back on! The Paris Agreement. It’s back on!

Biden Administration to Rejoin Paris Agreement

President-elect Joe Biden will take office on January 20, 2021. But, unless the Democrats pull out a win in the Georgia Senate runoff on January 5, the Biden Administration won’t be able to make new tax law, reform health care, or strengthen Section 230. It’s not all bad though. The Biden Administration brings hope for climate efforts. And with hope comes opportunity.

On November 4, 2020, the U.S. formally withdrew from the Paris Agreement (PA). For those that are unaware, the PA is an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It deals with greenhouse-gas-emissions mitigation, adaptation, and finance. The overarching temperature goal of the Paris Agreement is to hold global warming well below 2C.

As the U.S. is the world’s biggest economy and second-biggest emitter of greenhouse gas, Trumps’ move, in this instance, to pull out, sucks. So yeah, America leaving the PA put a massive damper on the global effort to curb climate change. Especially for environmentalists like myself. How then, you must wonder, has hope for the climate effort been restored?

Joe Biden has vowed to rejoin the PA on January 21. Such a vow in and of itself brings hope. A hope that is being felt around the globe. As AXIOS reports, in the carousel of congratulatory phone calls with other world leaders “Climate change has been featured in every call so far.”

Such hope runs further though, and stems from well-founded scientific evidence that says, if a Biden presidency can make good on its proposed climate change policy, the US could reduce global heating by about 0.1C. And this analysis from Climate Action Tracker (CAT) further notes that this would bring the goals of the Paris agreement “within striking distance.” 

What is Biden’s proposed climate change policy then? Will his policy be advantageous for startups and founders? 

The Policy Side

As per the Paris Agreement, the U.S. should aim to reach net-zero carbon emissions by at least 2050. So, Biden aims to have the U.S. reach the Paris Agreements’ carbon emissions goal of net-zero by 2050. And to do so he plans to scale-up solar, wind, geothermal energy, hydroelectric power, and carbon capture and storage. In effect, he is saying, among other things, that he will make way for a “Clean Energy Revolution.” And to set the revolution in motion he claims his administration will make a federal investment of $1.7tn over the next ten years. But also that he will leverage private sector and state and local investments to total more than $5tn.

At the moment, each of the clean energy technologies and sectors faces untold challenges. Solar manufacturing processes require improvement. Grid technology that has the capacity to integrate large amounts of wind and solar energy needs to be developed. Skill development and training for a new and booming job sector will be necessary. But what do challenges of the like bring? Opportunity. The opportunity of a lifetime for innovators and entrepreneurs that want to have an impact. 

The Legal Piece

Above, I noted that, “unless the Democrats pull out a win in the Georgia Senate runoff on January 5, the Biden Administration won’t be able to make new tax law, reform health care, or strengthen Section 230.”

Perhaps you were wondering what the legal pathway is for Biden to rejoin the Paris Agreement?

To pass sweeping reform and contentious domestic law, Biden needs the Senate. But to join an international agreement, he doesn’t. Under American domestic law, the President can join an international agreement one of two ways:

  1. A “legislative-executive” order that allows the President to join an international agreement, with the consent of Congress, under the authority of a law already passed by both houses of Congress; or
  2. a “sole executive agreement” that allows the President to join a treaty (international agreement) by way of his/hers/theirs own constitutional authority to “take care” that the United States’ laws be faithfully enforced (U.S. Constitution, Art II, § 3) and under the bundle of Constitutional responsibilities collectively referred to as the President’s foreign affairs power (See U.S. Constitution, Art. II, §§ 1, 2, 3; United States 11 Foreign Affairs Manual § 723.2-2(C)). 1

Both the sole executive agreement and legislative-executive agreement routes are possible for Biden. Again, neither route requires Senate approval. 2


In an address at Rice University on September 12, 1962, John F. Kennedy said, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” 

Going to the moon might have been an advantageous goal for the U.S. in 1962. But in this decade, we must choose to develop the technology, and pathways for clean energy, climate-tech, and other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard and necessary to sustain life on this planet for future generations.

The U.S. is rejoining the Paris Agreement. President Biden is committed to galvanizing a “Clean Energy Revolution.” Like Kennedy, Biden is saying that the United States is up to the task. Are you up to the task? Are you an entrepreneur, founder, or innovator that might be able to make waves and bring something to the table in the fight for life on this planet? In the coming year, there will be a number of grant programs made available to fund startups that seek to develop the technology, products, and capacities needed to aid this green and just transition to clean energy. Stay tuned to Law4Startups blogs and newsletters for future updates’.


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