Environmental Policy2020 Election SparksForeign Policy

2020 Elections & Foreign Policy: The Paris Climate Accord and the Iran Nuclear Deal

Posted on in Environmental Policy · 2020 Election Sparks · Foreign Policy

Under the Paris Agreement, each country must determine, plan, and regularly report on the contribution that it undertakes to mitigate global warming. No mechanism forces a country to set a specific emissions target by a specific date, but each target should go beyond previously set targets. President Trump withdrew the United States from the Agreement on June 1, 2017. Joe Biden has since said that he will have the United States rejoin the Agreement once he is inaugurated.

Presidents have more power and responsibility in foreign and defense policy than in domestic affairs. They are the commanders in chief of the armed forces; they decide how and when to wage war. As America’s chief diplomat, the president has the power to make treaties to be approved by the Senate. As head of state, the president speaks for the nation to other world leaders and receives ambassadors. America’s foreign policy is the expression of its goals in the world and of how it proposes to achieve them, a reflection of the nation’s interests, and a guideline of how to interact with other countries. Global interdependence and the breakdown of traditional barriers has increased the complexity of foreign policymaking. The distinction between foreign and domestic issues is no longer pronounced, and as the global financial crisis of 2008 proved, local decisions have ripple effects abroad. Presidents face a dizzying array of foreign policy challenges.  Using military force, diplomacy, trade, and covert actions presidents attempt to meet the challenges the world poses.

The Paris Agreement is a legally binding international treaty on climate change. It was adopted by 196 countries in Paris, on December 12, 2015 and entered into force on November 4, 2016. Its goal is to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels. To achieve this long-term temperature goal, countries aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible to achieve a climate neutral world by mid-century. The Paris Agreement works on a 5- year cycle of increasingly ambitious climate action carried out by countries. By 2020, countries submit their plans for climate action known as nationally determined contributions. President Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Climate Accord on June 17th, 2017.  President Biden has promised to rejoin the accord.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is the agreement reached by Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) on July 14, 2015. The nuclear deal was endorsed by UN Security Council Resolution 2231, adopted on July 20, 2015. Iran’s compliance with the nuclear-related provisions of the JCPOA will be verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) according to certain requirements set forth in the agreement. On May 8, 2018, President Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the JCPOA and reinstate U.S. nuclear sanctions on the Iranian regime. Joe Biden said the United States needs to re-join the agreement to ensure a nuclear free Iran. 

Instructors, click the link below to download this week’s lecture for use in your classroom. The deck contains a writing prompt and a debate question as well as other assessment questions.

Download the PowerPoint Lecture Spark for “Paris Climate Accord"


“Fate of climate crisis hangs on election as US exits Paris agreement”

“US vote to shape how world warms as climate pact exit looms”

“U.S. Emission Reductions Slowed After Trump Pulled Out Of Paris Accord”

“Global Climate Change: Vital signs of the planet”

“What will a Biden presidency mean for Iran?”

“Even if Biden wins US election, time is running out to save Iran nuclear deal”

“Explainer: How Biden and Trump would remake the Iran nuclear deal”

“A Biden administration wants the Iran nuclear deal back. That could be much harder and riskier now”


  • Debate: Climate change is caused by human activity and we must change our behavior to stop it.
  • Iran is a terrorist nation; we must not engage with it in a peaceful manner.
  • Poll: Climate change is the number one problem facing my generation.
  • We should negotiate with Iran to prevent nuclear proliferation.
  • Short Answer:  The president has a number of tools at his disposal to conduct foreign policy.  What are those tools and how might the Biden administration use them to deal with one of the problems in this spark note?

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Featured Image Credit: Markus Spiske

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