On Wednesday Joe Biden announced several cabinet nominations in his potential administration. One such nomination included the creation of a “Special Presidential Envoy for Climate Change” post under the auspices of the National Security Council. Biden said he intends to name former Secretary of State John Kerry to the post.
Kerry said on twitter that “The work we began with the Paris Agreement is far from done. I’m returning to government to get America back on track to address the biggest challenge of this generation and those that follow. The climate crisis demands nothing less than all hands on deck.”
The Trump administration announced its intent to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement in 2017, but due to a complex set of rules regarding notice to the United Nations, the United States only officially withdrew on November 4, 2020. The purpose of the Paris Climate Agreement was to keep worldwide temperature increases below 2 degrees Celsius through an elaborate plan of cutting carbon emissions in industrial countries throughout the world. The United States contributes approximately 15% to the world’s carbon emissions, but was required to make broader cuts to emissions under the agreement than the budding industrial economies of India and China.
President Trump said often that this agreement put US manufacturing at a disadvantage when compared to other countries and hampered our long-term energy security. Biden’s announcement today comes with a promise to rejoin the Paris Agreement, which the US entered into in 2014.
In 2017, when President Trump announced the withdraw of the US from the agreement, Peabody Coal, the largest US coal producer at the time, released a statement saying “We believe that abiding by the accord, without significant changes, would have substantially impacted the U.S. economy, increased electricity costs and required the power sector to rely on less diverse and more intermittent energy.”
While the coal industry has rebounded under the Trump administration it has still not achieved pre-2009 levels of production seen prior to the Obama administration. Biden’s announcement comes at a critical time in the coal industry as US production of coal is down 25% over the last year.
Lootpress reached out to Ben Beakes, the Executive Director of WV Affairs for the Metallurgical Coal Producers Association concerning the announcement, who said
“Plans to re-enter the Paris Climate Agreement may have negative implications to the thermal coal industry, which is used to generate electricity. While we stand in support of our thermal producing colleagues, these actions highlight for us the importance of our region to promote and advance the opportunities we have with metallurgical coal, or steel-making coal. We hope policymakers understand the need for further upgrades to our country’s infrastructure, and the need for steel. The Metallurgical Coal Producers Association will be monitoring the Paris Climate Agreement developments closely as it relates to policies that promote or inhibit future growth of our critical infrastructure and economy.”
We also spoke with Jason Bostic, the Vice President of the West Virginia Coal Association. Bostic, in commenting on Biden’s intent to rejoin the Paris Agreement, said,
“Joe Biden’s commitment to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord and potentially commit to even more ambitious targets to reduce emissions should be concerning to every American worker and certainly to those in West Virginia. The Appalachian coal industry was unfairly targeted during the Obama Administration by activist regulatory agencies that were operating outside the legal boundaries established for them by Congress. Rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement would provide the Biden Administration a convenient excuse to resume the push to eliminate a critical piece of the nation’s energy supply. The aggressive reductions contemplated by the Paris Agreement will not only impact electricity production but will spread through the entire economy, impacting other essential industries and activities such as steelmaking and construction, while giving other nation’s a pass on emissions as they expand their economies at the sake of our own.”
Many in the coal industry have been outspoken about the negative impact the Obama administration had upon the industry. The number of active mines in West Virginia plunged from over 1200 to less than 150 during the Obama/Biden administration.
While Biden has signified his intent to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, no timetable has been released.