Syria, Cambodia, and the US, too?
June 2, 2017
Today, President Donald Trump moved the United States into an infamous club by joining Syria and Cambodia as the only countries that will not implement the global greenhouse reductions negotiated in the Paris Agreement.
Our sworn enemies in Iran and North Korea have signed on. Libya is in. Even Israel and the State of Palestine, who don’t agree on much, agree on the Paris Agreement. But, today, the US ceded its position as the world’s superpower and abdicated its responsibility as the world’s biggest per capita polluter, abandoning an agreement that is focused on reducing the Earth’s dangerous greenhouse gases.
This wasn’t a political agreement that should be abandoned when a new administration comes into power. It’s not a simple disagreement on whether global warming exists, if humans are contributing to it, or on what steps should be taken to reduce or stop it.
The Paris Agreement, as we have written here in the past, is an important accord reached after years of negotiations with representatives from nearly 200 nations.
Countries like France, where the accord was reached, have committed to evolving their economies to disconnect GDP from carbon emissions, meaning they can grow their national economy without increasing their carbon footprint.
Instead of encouraging sustainable industries that can develop new and exciting ways to stimulate job growth and raise standards of living, Donald Trump wants to bring back outdated coal jobs that are dangerous, low paying, and short-lived.
The United States emits seven times more carbon gases than China, we consume four times more energy per capital than China, and we burn three times more oil than China.
Yet, today, we allowed China to take the lead on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and, more importantly, to claim the lead in fostering clean technologies that will power the economy of the future. China is betting on the future, and we just bet on the past.
China is the largest polluter today because its huge pollution is still dependent on coal power plants, but, that, too, is changing. In order to help clean its air, China has been pushing to convert power plants to natural gas, and to build new clean plants, along with dramatic increases in renewable energy sources. In fact, China now produced more electricity from renewable sources than the U.S. does.
In the past ten years, China has slowed its pollution growth and, in 2015, saw a 16 percent reduction in the most toxic air pollutants. Because of new clean air policies, including heavy fines for polluters, China is on track to meet the reductions outlined in the Paris Agreement.
The U.S., on the other hand, has now declared it will abandon the Paris Agreement. Although Trump celebrated this announcement today as some sort of victory, several prominent leaders criticized him publicly. Elon Musk quit two of the President’s advisory councils. The CEOs of Apple, IBM, Goldman Sachs, and General Electric disagreed, too.
In the past few days, several people close to Trump tried to change his mind. Daughter Ivanka Trump set up calls with world leaders and business executives supportive of the Paris Agreement. Even Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobile, also tried.
Undeterred, Trump announced that the US was getting out. He said he was elected to represent the people of Pittsburgh, not Paris.
In an ironic rebuke, the Mayor of Pittsburgh used Trump’s favorite medium to respond.
“I can assure you that we will follow the guidelines of the Paris Agreement for our people, our economy & future,” Mayor Bill Peduto wrote in a Twitter message.
At his annoucement today, Trump defended his decision, asking rhetorically, “At what point do they start laughing at us as a country?
Well, in every country, except maybe Syria and Cambodia, they started laughing at us today.