April 10, 2021, 10:16 a.m. EDT

Biden pledges stronger U.S. role in Paris Climate Accord as architect Kerry wants a loftier pact, period

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By Rachel Koning Beals

President-elect Joe Biden marked the five-year anniversary of the Paris climate-change pact on Saturday, pledging to increase the U.S.’s ambition for the voluntary global agreement that the Trump administration had quit.

Biden’s newly named environmental-policy envoy, John Kerry, has said he wants the Paris Accord as a whole to be stronger. Kerry was a chief writer of the five-year-old framework.

Read: Fossil-fuel apologist or sensible statesman? Responses to Biden’s pick of Kerry for climate envoy

“U.S. leadership was essential to negotiating Paris and indispensable to bringing the Agreement into force. Over the last four years, however, the world has lost that momentum, and nations and people in every part of the world are feeling the devastating impacts of a changing climate,” Biden said in a statement. “We haven’t come close to the bold action that’s needed, and today, we have no time to waste.”

Greenhouse gas emissions hit a new high last year, before COVID-19 slowed the global economy. The warm-up puts the world on track for an average temperature rise of 3 degrees Celsius, a U.N. report showed this week . The Paris framework aims to hold the increase in average global temperatures “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), and ideally no more than 1.5C (2.7 F), compared to pre-industrial levels.

The Biden-Harris Administration wants the U.S. on a path to achieve net-zero emissions no later than 2050.

Trump, who has broadly eased environmental regulations during his presidency, pulled the U.S. from the Paris deal by suggesting that developing nations including China and India are not pulling their weight.

Paris accord member China, the world’s largest polluter, surprised many earlier this year by advancing a commitment to net-zero emissions by 2060 .

Now much of the industrialized world is eagerly awaiting regular updates on compliance from the second largest economy in the world. China released the equivalent of 10 billion tons of carbon dioxide, or CO2, into the atmosphere in 2018, according to the Global Carbon Project that tracks emissions worldwide. That was almost twice as much as the U.S. and three times as much as the European Union.

Kerry, the former U.S. secretary of state, told NBC this week he wants to see the Paris agreement shoot for more-aggressive objectives.

“It has to be stronger,” Kerry said, stressing that the multinational deal was always intended to be a first step.

“I’m confident we can get there,” he said. “The issue is, are we going to get there in time? And that’s our race. This is our moonshot.”

Biden had previously pledged to rejoin the Paris accord on day one of his presidency in January and the process through the U.N.-directed effort should take about 30 days to be official.

Biden can also address climate-change priorities in executive orders focused on the energy sector early in his administration, especially given the Democrats lack of control of the U.S. Senate. Analysts are awaiting the new administration’s stance on natural gas /zigman2/quotes/210189548/delayed NG00 -2.73% and other energy sources some see as a key to a diverse mix moving toward greater renewable-energy use. /zigman2/quotes/205740995/composite ICLN +1.96%

Related: Here’s what Biden’s first 100 days could mean for health care, energy and more key sectors

Climate-change policy watchers have also emphasized expectations for a Biden administration to include climate-change factors in economic policy across agencies and departments, including in the powerful Treasury Secretary post. Biden has nominated former Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen as Treasury head.

Yellen, Biden team member Brian Deese, who worked on climate change in the Obama administration, and Neera Tanden, the nominee to head the White House Office of Management and Budget, are preparing to weave efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and accelerate clean energy production into the economic stimulus legislation that his team is crafting, reports say.

Read: Federal Reserve steps up climate-change response and gets immediate backlash from some House Republicans

Extending and expanding tax credits for wind and solar power is one priority area, but moving to allow the Department of Energy to fund “green” banks to support clean-energy infrastructure is also in the mix, the New York Times reported this week .

Biden repeated Saturday his expectation to work with local government and the private sector. “We’ll elevate the incredible work cities, states, and businesses have been doing to help reduce emissions and build a cleaner future. We’ll listen to and engage closely with the activists, including young people, who have continued to sound the alarm and demand change from those in power,” he said.

Read: Electric vehicle sales expected to grow 50% in 2021

The European Union, meanwhile, wrapped up tough negotiations this week between leaders who’ve already embraced renewable energy and other emissions-reduction steps and those nations whose power grid still largely relies on coal and traditional fossil fuels.

The bloc has now pledged to cut net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by the end of the decade compared with 1990 levels.

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