BY ISN STAFF | January 21, 2021

Yesterday, January 20, 2021, the United States repositioned itself as a global leader in responding to the grave realities of global climate change by rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement. 

The move, on the first day of the Biden Administration, signals to the world the renewed commitment on the part of the U.S. to global citizenship. Re-entry in the Agreement will go into effect officially on February 19, 2021, and will include a new U.S. emissions reduction plan. 

Climate action, Biden

A 2019 Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice Public Witness attendee prepares to advocate for climate justice during advocacy day on Capitol Hill.

This comes at a critical moment globally. Recently released reports indicate that 2020 was tied with 2016 for the hottest year on record. 2020’s Atlantic hurricane season broke records in both frequency and severity. A global migration crisis is in motion due to the increase in climate hot spots, impacting billions of people in the coming decades, forced from their homes by drought, wildfires, and other climate change induced natural disasters. These crises overwhelmingly affect the most vulnerable worldwide. 

“A cry for survival comes from the planet itself. A cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear,” said President Biden in his January 20 inaugural address. “We’re going to combat climate change in a way we have not before,”  he later said as he prepared to sign executive orders on Wednesday evening. He went on to say that: “They are just executive actions. They are important but we’re going to need legislation for a lot of the things we’re going to do.”

As Pope Francis stated in his 2015 encyclical on climate change, Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home, “an interdependent world not only makes us more conscious of the negative effects of certain lifestyles and models of production and consumption which affect us all; more importantly, it motivates us to ensure that solutions are proposed from a global perspective, and not simply to defend the interests of a few countries.” [164] 

The U.S. began the process to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement in 2017 under the Trump Administration. The withdrawal became official in fall of 2020. The Jesuit and broader Catholic Church has consistently advocated to sustain the tenets of the Agreement and has continued to take action to reduce emissions on campuses and communities. Campuses including Creighton University, Georgetown University, and Seattle University have made fossil fuels divestment commitments. Students, faculty, staff, and individuals from Jesuit institutions have engaged consistently in climate action, including the 2019 Global Climate Strike.

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