Why Trump Must Keep The U.S. In The Paris Climate Agreement

The facts on the economic opportunities also underline how the Paris agreement works to the national interest of countries.
05/30/2017 02:35 pm ET Updated Jun 01, 2017

Co-authored by Greenpeace USA Executive Director Annie Leonard.

If Donald Trump is serious about his pledge to prioritize economic growth and security, the US national interest will be best served by sticking to the Paris Climate Agreement.

An historic, generation-defining pact, the Paris Climate Agreement committed almost 200 countries to combatting dangerous global warming because it was the right thing to do, and it’s this message that the Trump administration needs to hear.

It’s the same message that Europe, Canada and Japan gave to Donald Trump at the G7 Summit last week: That he is isolated on this issue and needs to commit. As the summit ended, Trump tweeted that he would decide on the Paris agreement this week.

It would be easy now to let the media attention around Trump’s looming decision on whether to stick with the Paris agreement or not overshadow what’s really at stake, but at the same time, it can also serve as a reminder of what we’re fighting for.

In fact, the renewed attention on the Paris pact provides a platform for many in the US and around the world to recommit to climate action in the understanding of the massive threat humanity is facing.

It also gives us a chance to reflect on what Paris intended and where the world stands one and a half years later. To limit oneself to the inside talk of Washington, it would be easy to get a skewed understanding of what Paris says and what it broadly represents.

This is not only unwise, it is playing into the hands of those that are working to stop climate action, rather than listening to everyone else who is moving forward.

What the Paris agreement did, was capture what the world – except for a few deniers in the White House and the EPA – understands:

  1. That the world is warming to dangerous levels due to human influence, and;
  2. That the economic opportunities that underpin the response to climate change are immense and available now.

It represents also the understanding that international cooperation is absolutely fundamental on issues of peace and climate, but also that countries need the ability to nationally determine their national commitments that are stipulated in the agreement.

This interchange between international cooperation and responsibility and the anchoring of national interest is the new paradigm that the Paris agreement represents.

To reflect both scientific and economic realities, the agreement includes both the long-term goal to stay below 1.5 degrees/2 degrees Celsius and achieve a zero carbon economy by mid-century and mechanisms to strengthen action that are fair, transparent and accountable.

The intent and provisions of the agreement is not to weaken action, but to strengthen it. Specific proposals to allow a weakening of action were rejected in the negotiations because the facts spoke clearly to needing more, not less of a response to the problem now and in the future.

Since Paris, the facts re-confirm that this decision was the right way to go. Recent studies by the World Meteorological Organization and NASA / National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have found that the Earth is entering an unpredictable stage, where the impacts of human-induced climate change are anything but normal.

The facts on the economic opportunities also underline how the Paris agreement works to the national interest of countries. Those implementing the agreement by pursuing renewable energy solutions are starting to reap the benefits.

Coal is waning worldwide, whether it’s in China – where coal has clearly peaked – or in Europe and the US. Renewable energy is booming – solar energy now employs almost 374,000 workers in the US while coal employs just 160,000 workers.

Paris represents the great leap forward for jobs as part of the global economic transition.

It also represents the need for risk management from a security perspective. The CIA and military leaders have all warned that climate change poses a real security threat both to the US and to the world.

Climate change demands an urgent response, and it’s not just Greenpeace saying this – it’s also what CEOs of multinational corporations are saying and it’s also what countries like China and Germany are stating.

We must not get distracted by attempts by climate deniers in the White House and the EPA, backed by fossil fuel interests, to weaken the intent of the Paris agreement and the global response to climate change.

It is not possible to reinterpret or change scientific facts. Nor is it possible to stop the clean energy transformation or ignore the need for international cooperation to address this problem. Instead, the US should focus on getting ahead of it and proving our leadership on the international stage while also reaping economic benefits at home.

If the national interest of the US was truly driving this administration’s actions, it would listen to what the world is saying: Stick to the agreement and implement it.

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