For those in the campus community, President Joe Biden’s executive order for the United States to rejoin the Paris Agreement is, while important, just one step of a larger effort to combat climate change.
The Paris Agreement is an international treaty from the United Nations meant to limit the impacts of climate change. To do so, participating countries provide support to others in their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Former president Barack Obama entered the Paris Agreement in 2016, but his successor, former president Donald Trump, withdrew the following year. On his first day in office, Biden signed an executive order for the U.S. to join once again.
“It feels really comforting and exciting to just know that we’re at least doing the basic thing that we had been needing to do for the last few years,” said Sharon Daraphonhdeth, UC Berkeley Student Environmental Resource Center director. “I feel like it’s a really good direction and getting us back on track.”
Daraphonhdeth added, however, that a lot of environmental and climate work still remains. This includes adopting the Green New Deal — a plan for the U.S. to cut its fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions — and addressing the impacts that climate change disproportionately has on low-income communities and communities of color.
Campus environmental science professor Ronald Amundson said though the effort to change energy and food production may take multiple generations, rejoining the Paris Agreement is an initial step.
“There is nothing not to like about once again being part of this international agreement,” Amundson said in an email. “An important start is to acknowledge it, and take a clear-eyed view of its challenges and opportunities.”
Amundson added that while there is no simple solution in addressing climate change, joining the Paris Agreement was an important step forward as it puts the problem on the “front burner” and unifies the world’s focus on it.
Sarah Xu, a student organizer for UC Berkeley environmental economics and policy students, also said the Paris Agreement is not the “end all be all.” She added that individuals have to hold politicians, businesses and multinational corporations accountable for the planet.
The decision is also important because confronting climate change is a global effort, according to Xu.
“Whatever local policies we may pass in California — no matter how good — doesn’t make a huge difference unless the world is in it together,” Xu said.