The Paris Climate Accord (PCA) is the world's first comprehensive climate agreement. An agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) dealing with greenhouse gases emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance starting in the year 2020, the agreement was negotiated by representatives of 195 countries at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in Paris and adopted by consensus on December 12, 2015. It was later opened for signature on April 22, 2016 – Earth Day – at a ceremony in New York, with President Barack Obama one of the PCA’s most steadfast supporters.
The stated goals of the PCA by the UNFCCC are as follows:
- Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change;
- Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production;
- Making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development."
The Paris Agreement emphasizes the principle of "Common but Differentiated Responsibility and Respective Capabilities, which is the acknowledgement that different nations have different capacities and duties to climate action. Therefore, larger, more industrialized nations that generate a greater degree of greenhouse gas will have a correspondingly larger duty to curtail their emissions.
Initially, the United States steadfastly stuck to their part of the bargain on global climate change. But fast-forward to 2017, and Donald Trump – who previously called climate change a “hoax” created by China – is now President of the United States, and has stated that he will announce this upcoming week whether or not he will adhere to one of his campaign promises to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accord. Trump met with world leaders this week at the G7 Summit in Sicily, where many of them attempted to sway the U.S. leader to reconsider his previous stance on the deal signed by his predecessor; leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom and the presidents of the European Council and of the European Commission reaffirmed their commitment to the PCA, while many are anticipating Trump to pull the U.S. out regardless of that fact.
In fact, talk is circulating that Trump has told confidants that he will indeed lead his country out of the climate deal; following discussions at the G7 Summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel – a major supporter of the PCA – expressed frustration with what many suppose was Trump’s position on climate change, without actually mentioning the U.S. President by name.
“The entire discussion about climate was very difficult, if not to say very dissatisfying,” she said. “There are no indications whether the United States will stay in the Paris Agreement or not.”
While Republicans are offering suppose for the idea of Trump abandoning the PCA, it would serve the United States best if he were to actually stick with it; and not just for the scientifically proven environmental benefits of saving the planet for future generations. Shockingly enough, numerous big businesses have publically come out in favor of the U.S.’s adherence to the PCA; Microsoft, Apple, Starbucks, Gap, Nike, Google, Adidas and L'Oreal all support continued U.S. involvement. But while many of those companies were already known for their environmentally “green” ideologies, the real surprise is that several major American energy companies have also voiced their support for the PCA, including oil firms such as Chevron and ExxonMobil; one of the reasons is that the agreement favors natural gas – which these companies produce – over coal.
However, there is hope that President Trump will actually honor the United States’ place in the Paris Climate Accord; according to Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Trump is "wide open" on the issue of whether the U.S. should remain in the PCA.
"We've obviously got a discussion going on about our policy in this regard," he said. "I was sitting in on some of the discussions, by the way, where climate change came up, and the president was open. He was curious about why others were in the position they were in – his counterparts in other nations – and I'm quite certain the president is wide open on this issue as he takes in the pros and cons of that accord."
Some detractors of the PCA have cited factors such as impact on jobs in the fossil fuel industry, a lopsided deal that allows other nations to decrease their carbon emissions to a lesser degree than the United States, the overall cost of implementing the changes required, among other factors. While some of the complaints being levied at the PCA are valid – while others are not – simply walking away from a measure that could safeguard the health and well-being of the planet and its billions of inhabitants is not something President Trump should take lightly. Instead, our Commander-in-Chief – who prides himself on the “art of the deal” – should consider engaging in renegotiations to better align elements to the United States’ interests. Therefore, he could adhere to his oft-stated “America First” policy, while also putting the future of the Earth first as well.