Trump Without Direction on Paris Agreement
by Kate Galbo, Programs Manager
With the Trump Administration signaling the US pull out of the Paris climate agreement; many are sitting on the edge of their seats waiting for the expected announcement after the G7 meeting over the weekend. While attending the conference, the Trump Administration abstained from a declaration signed by all other G7 members, which pledged continued commitment to the Paris Agreement. This morning, multiple media outlets are reporting that the decision will be made official by the end of the week.
Under the Paris Agreement, individual countries are to track their internally set climate goals and report on this progress at upcoming United Nations conference in Bonn, Germany this November. For the U.S. the international targets translate roughly into a 80% economy-wide decarbonization goal by 2050. The Obama Era Clean Power Plan was to serve as the United States commitment, something the current administration highly criticized on the campaign trail.
Globally, business leaders and heads-of-state have all stood by the agreement. The reasons for this loyalty are manifold. Seen as a turning point for global climate policy, the Paris agreement marked the first time all countries came together and created a framework for reducing carbon emissions and helping countries adapt to a changing climate.
The calls for federal leaders to remain in the Paris agreement are pleas urging the U.S. to remain proactive on climate change more than they are about the agreement itself. With the bold and dynamic action coming from U.S.companies, local officials and investment, markets have already embraced a path towards climate action. Though the decision to withdraw from Paris would give us a reputational hit, it won’t necessarily put an end to the plentiful economic opportunities arising from participating in global action on climate change.
In a letter released last week, Massachusetts Governor Baker and his fellow Republican in Vermont, Governor Scott, called on federal leaders to maintain our country’s commitments to the Paris Accord. The letter, addressed to U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, calls on national leaders to remain committed to reduce emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 levels.
“The impacts of climate change have already been felt in our states,” Baker and Scott wrote. “We have seen the impacts of rising sea levels, increasingly severe flooding, heat waves, droughts, and decline in snow cover. These impacts threaten the people of our states and put an intense burden on our economies. Our states, working individually and in multi-state efforts, have already made tremendous progress in reducing our carbon emissions.” the governors wrote.
Likewise, 360 companies and investors including Starbucks, Nike, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Staples, and Biogen have asked President Trump to continue U.S. participation in the Paris agreement and invest in the low carbon economy. The signatories emphasized their deep commitment to addressing climate change and pledged to do their part as well, by reducing operational emissions.
During the time the Paris agreement was being developed, more than 150 American companies came forward to support the agreement and pledge emissions reductions within their own operations. The companies operate in all 50 states, employ nearly 11 million people, and have annual revenues of 4.2 trillion dollars. Many of these companies have made significant pledges to reduce emissions and increase low-carbon investments. For example, Bank of America committed to carbon neutrality and 100 percent renewable electricity by 2020. Cambridge-based Biogen is using an internal carbon price to retain their carbon neutral status across their entire value chain.
This level of dedication doesn’t just show the high-regard of the Paris agreement to many across the country, but it displays the private-sector’s commitment to fighting climate change. While the Trump administration uses the Paris agreement for a pedestal of climate change denying spin, their followers are becoming noticeably small. With or without U.S. commitment to the Paris agreement, it is quite clear that the transition to a low-carbon economy is already underway. U.S. businesses are leading the way in the fight against climate change and their efforts will continue to drive a cycle of more ambitious innovation and investment in carbon-free technology and behaviors.
About the author: Kate Galbo joined CABA in September of 2015 after receiving a degree in Environmental Policy and Analysis from Boston University. Previously, she conducted research for Policy Studies Institute to help bridge the gap between sustainable development research and society. Kate has previously interned for other Massachusetts non-profit organizations. As Programs Manager, Kate focuses on engaging with our member businesses to take targeted policy action, achieve meaningful emissions reductions, and foster a sense of community.