• Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Impact of the U.S. rejoining the Paris climate accord

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The United States has now rejoined the Paris Agreement after the Trump administration pulled out in 2017. CBS News senior national and environmental correspondent Ben Tracy joined CBSN's Tanya Rivero with more on what his means for the ongoing climate crisis.

Video Transcript

TANYA RIVERO: The US is officially back in the Paris Climate Accord. The Biden administration rejoined the international treaty today, after former President Trump pulled out of the landmark deal in 2017.

America is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases warming the planet. CBS News Sr. National and Environmental Correspondent Ben Tracy spoke with the Biden administration's climate envoy, John Kerry. He addressed the seriousness of the climate crisis.

BEN TRACY: How much more aggressive do we now need to be to really solve this problem?

JOHN KERRY: Even if we did everything that we said we were going to do when we signed up in Paris, we would see a rise in the Earth's temperature to somewhere around 3.7 degrees or more, which is catastrophic.

TANYA RIVERO: And for more on this, I want to bring in CBS News Sr. national and Environmental Correspondent Ben Tracy. Hi, Ben. Great to see you. So what exactly happens now that we have rejoined the Paris Climate Accord?

BEN TRACY: So this is not something that the average American is going to notice in their daily life, and there's a couple of reasons for that. One, we actually weren't officially out of the Paris Accord for very long. President Trump announced that he was withdrawing from it back in 2017, when he famously announced in the Rose Garden that he was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh and not Paris.

But because of how long it took the Trump administration to file the paperwork and then there's this year-long lag time before you can actually get out of the accord, we didn't actually drop out of it until the day after the November election in 2020.

What's more important about this and more significant is that the US is now saying to the rest of the world, hey, we are back in this, we're going to make good on our commitments, and we're going to double down on those and increase our ambitions to cut our own emissions. And that gives other countries reason to do the same.

And Secretary Kerry did tell us in this interview, he said, you know, we have to show people that we're good for our word, that this isn't just going to be talk. It can't be cheap talk anymore. He actually said, there's no more time for BS. He said, we have to show the world what we're going to do, and then we have to do it.

TANYA RIVERO: All right, I want to get to your interview with Secretary Kerry. As you mentioned, he stressed to you how urgent the situation is. Let's play part of the interview.

BEN TRACY: How much time do we still have left to avert climate catastrophe?

JOHN KERRY: Well, the scientists told us three years ago we had 12 years to avert the worst consequences of climate crisis. We are now three years gone, so we have nine years left.

TANYA RIVERO: What else did Secretary Kerry say to you about the timeliness of the climate crisis? I mean, I know that this timeline is something that scientists often say they get surprised by. Like, they think we have this much time before this happened, and actually it happened sooner than they expected. Is that the kind of timeline that we're working with now?

BEN TRACY: It does seem to be something that keeps shifting, because the impacts of this tend to be greater than what scientists have thought at any given moment in time and also the amount of warming that the planet can sustain before we really do see some of these catastrophic impacts that Secretary Kerry Was talking about.

So the time frame that he's giving, about nine years to avoid the worst of this, the goal is to keep the warming below 2 degrees Celsius. That's about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. And the thought is that really to stay out of that danger zone, we have to be much closer to 1.5 degrees. So there's not a lot of latitude there when you're talking about the impacts of the change.

So the Secretary does feel this real sense of urgency. But he does say that he's very encouraged by some things that are already happening, especially here in the economy in the United States. We've seen renewable energy really take off in the last couple of years, despite some of the rollbacks in environmental regulations under the Trump administration. We've seen wind power, solar power become cheaper than coal in a lot of places and put some coal plants out of business.

We're also now seeing US automakers, like GM, come out and say, you know what? We're done with the internal combustion engine. We're going to go all electric by 2035. And they're not doing that because they're told they have to do that. They see that is the future.

TANYA RIVERO: So Ben, what is the next big step the Biden administration wants to take to address the climate crisis?

BEN TRACY: Yes, so that's going to come up real soon. The administration has said by Earth Day, which is April 22, they want to announce what the United States' new target is going to be. How much will we cut our planet warming emissions here in this country? Under the original Paris Agreement, we had decided to do about 26% to 28% cut. And Secretary Kerry says that's not going to cut it anymore. That's just not enough, because the planet is changing so quickly.

So there is this thing called the nationally determined contribution. That is a fancy term for just, how low can you go? And so what's going to happen is the US will announce its intention. And then at the end of the year in November in Scotland, all the countries that signed on to the Paris Agreement, they'll get back together. Everyone will say, OK, here's what we can do to kind of ratchet up our emissions cuts. And we'll find out if that's enough to keep the planet from warming.

TANYA RIVERO: All right, well, Ben Tracy, thank you so much for your excellent reporting. And great interview there with Secretary Kerry.

BEN TRACY: Thank you.