The Path Back to Paris

Exploring the role of the United States as an international leader on climate action


Nov. 19, 2020


12:00–1:30 p.m. ET

Event Series

RFF Live

Event Details

In early November 2020, the United States became the first and only nation in the world to formally withdraw from the Paris Agreement, the historic international accord on climate change. The landmark agreement, which the United States joined in 2015 together with more than 190 other nations and the European Union, aims to limit global temperature rise to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels through non-binding national targets. During his campaign, President-Elect Joe Biden pledged his commitment to rejoin the accord on his first day in office.

On Thursday, November 19, Resources for the Future (RFF) hosted a discussion that sought to understand the implications of rejoining the Paris Agreement on the heels of the 2020 US presidential election. A distinguished set of panelists explored the steps that the United States might take to reposition the country as an international leader on climate action. They also considered the commitments and policy actions the United States could take while factoring in the political, economic, and social obstacles that must be overcome.

The discussion, moderated by New York Times climate and environment reporter Coral Davenport, drew on the expertise of Jonathan Pershing, former lead US negotiator to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and former Special Envoy for Climate Change at the US Department of State; and Kelly Sims Gallagher, former Senior Policy Advisor in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and former Senior China Advisor in the Special Envoy for Climate Change office at the US State Department.


  • Kelly Sims Gallagher, Tufts University
  • Jonathan Pershing, Hewlett Foundation
  • Coral Davenport, New York Times (moderator)
  • Richard G. Newell, Resources for the Future (introductory remarks)

Event Video


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