The Paris Accord After U.S. Election
Pamela Sornson - February 26, 2017
Despite the question of whether the United States will continue its participation in the Paris Climate Accord, the rest of the world appears committed to following through with its determination to reduce global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and slow the advancement of climate change. President Obama was a strong supporter of the Accord, and in September 2016, he and China's President Xi Jinping stood together while signing the ratification documents that officially committed their respective countries to participate in the venture.
The joint signing event was notable because China and the United States are the top two GHG emitters in the world. In 2011, their combined emissions totaled almost half (44%) of all global carbon dioxide emissions (China = 28%; the U.S. = 16%). Any measurable GHG reduction on either of their parts will almost certainly move the planet forward toward the ultimate goal of slowing climate change.
Also notably, in November 2016, just days before the American presidential election, the Accord had gathered sufficient worldwide support to be declared "in force." By that date, the governments of more than 55 countries of the Accord's 197-member Assembly had ratified the Agreement, and together, they totaled more than 55% of total global emissions. Ratification by the U.S. and China was a key factor in the rapid adoption of the Accord by the world's political leaders. "Entry into force" now mandates all ratifying countries to both establish and report to Accord participants their activities in support of the agreement.
U.S. Election Surprises the World
Since then, America "elected" Donald Trump as president. His opinions regarding climate change and global warming vacillate, most often to the negative. In 2012, Trump declared that climate change is a "hoax" invented by the Chinese to boost their economy. He retweeted that thought several times in 2013, and in January 2014, he declared that scientists were in on the hoax and that they "are having a lot of fun" in the process. He expressed that opinion despite the fact that 97% of the global science community agrees that there is no doubt that global warming is happening.
New President Confounds Experts
Now-U.S. President Trump has appointed a prominent global warming skeptic as head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which presumably would be the agency in charge of monitoring the country's GHG emission reductions on behalf of the Accord. It is significant that hundreds of EPA staffers openly protested the appointment of Scott Pruit, and equally significant that the Republican-majority Congress ignored those protests and confirmed him anyway. Consequently, in the face of Trump's acts, many are wondering how effective the Paris Accord will be if the United States fails to live up to its agreement to participate.
The World Rallies
The good news is that "America" is more than just its government and that the rest of the world apparently has no intention of letting the Paris Climate Accord fail.
International Leaders Encourage Accord Participation
In November of 2016, world leaders gathered in Marrakesh, Morocco to set agendas for implementation of the Accord. More than 200 countries attended the United Nation's conference, where they addressed the nuts and bolts of the Accord, including how each country would achieve its GHG-lowering goals, and how each member of the group would report and track its efforts to each other.
The conference also issued a unified political call to all the world's leaders, including Trump, to abide by and follow through with Accord agreements. Before the conference closed, the ministers and negotiators of 200 nations stood and cheered the document that reaffirmed the world's commitment to the Accord despite the shocking American election result.
America's Companies Aren't Deterred, Either
Also speaking out at the Marrakesh conference were more than 360 of America's largest corporations. In a joint letter read to conference attendees, the corporate leadership of Nike, Mars, Starbucks, Levi Strauss, other companies and major American investors asserted their deep commitment to a cleaner environment because it also assures a stronger U.S. economy. Without the concerted GHG reduction effort across America's economic frontier, U.S. competitiveness would flounder and cost Americans even more jobs. The chocolate conglomerate Mars, for example, pledged to eliminate 100% of GHG emissions from all of its operations by 2040 because not to do so is a "real business risk."
Environmental leaders also added to the discussion, noting that 2015 marked the first year ever that employment growth in the renewable energy sector topped that of the oil and gas industry. In just the U.S. solar industry, job creation grew 12 times faster than in any other industry. The upshot: the future of American jobs isn't in "Big Coal;" it's in the renewable energy industry. If Trump plans to follow through on his promise to provide more jobs, he will be much more successful if he embraces future, cleaner energy sources while following the world's lead and reducing the U.S. reliance on fossil fuel resources.
World Unites Against a Common Enemy
Trump's apparent ignorance or intentional rejection of the science supporting the reality of climate change has deeply alarmed scientists, business leaders, political organizations, and environmental groups around the world. At the same time and perhaps because of that befuddling position, those leaders have taken an even stronger stance to protect the planet from atmospheric erosion caused by man-made pollution. It may be that, by pushing so hard against the reality of climate change, Trump may have ignited exactly the commitment and focus the world needs to slow, stop, or even reverse it.