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The Paris Climate Agreement: What Just Happened?

On June 1st President Donald Trump announced that the US was withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement. His reasons centered around the idea that our committal meant an unfavorable outcome for the American economy. Trump stated that he represented the “citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” and stated that the deal benefitted France over the US.

One important thing to note is that the Paris Climate Accords have no method of enforcement. The agreement is simply a promise to commit to limiting the global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius. This is accomplished by a series of goals set individually by country. The agreement is an opportunity for the nations of the world to convene and discuss reasonable methods of environmental protection. Every country excepting Syria and Nicaragua signed on in 2016. Now America joins those two.

What does this mean for the planet? It does not help matters that the US is the second greatest polluter of the world’s nations. If America does not prioritize carbon emission reduction, it sets a poor precedent. Previously, the US had committed to reducing its emissions by 27% by 2025. Now that the president no longer considers this goal to be a national priority, government funding toward emission reduction efforts is at stake. Under former President Barack Obama, the US was projected to reach only half its goal. But now, the US is likely to fall even further from it.

Support for withdrawal was outlined in a letter signed by 22 GOP senators. The letter expressed concern that the agreement would withhold the president from completely rescinding the Clean Power Plan, one of his campaign promises. The plan, created under the Obama administration, instituted regulations on fossil fuel emissions of power plants for the first time. The American Energy Alliance also opposed the deal, stating that these regulations are responsible for hindering economic growth.

On the other hand, there has been a fair amount of opposition to this decision; even some coal industries advocated for the agreement. Companies such as Cloud Peak Energy Inc and Peabody Energy Corp agreed that their voices in the annual conferences were necessary to ensure a reasonable transition from fossil fuels. They could also advocate for less environmentally damaging processes (for example, carbon capture and storage technology) that would not obliterate the coal industry as a whole.

Since the decision, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has formed a coalition that will adhere to the goals set by the US preceding the withdrawal. The initial letter of intent was signed by over 1,200 mayors, governors, college/university leaders, businesses, and investors. Bloomberg plans to send a report to the UN detailing America’s subnational efforts. This is all to say, individual initiatives can still contribute to the goals of the Paris Agreement, regardless of national participation.












Published by Deerfield Academy's science journalism magazine Focal Point. Click here for the full article.



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