A climate of change

President Trump steps away from Paris Climate Agreement

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Cat Frink / The Torch

“I am fighting every day for the great people of this country,” President Trump stated during his address in the White House Rose Garden on June 1. “Therefore, in order to fulfill my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.”

The reality is that the treaty is still in the teething process. For example, President Trump is correct in saying that many developed countries haven’t paid a dime, but it’s still too early to tell who will and who won’t pay their share.

The Paris Climate Accord, a thirty-one page proposal created in Dec. 2015 by former President Barack Obama, lays out a plan to combat climate change on a global scale. Its primary goals are to keep global emissions to a projected 55 gigatonnes in 2030 and to keep the global temperature average from increasing by 2 degrees Celsius.

The first time a global agreement was reached in United Nation’s history was in 1987 with the Montreal Protocol. This early climate change treaty was universally ratified by 197 countries. As of 2015, 195 countries have agreed to the Paris Agreement and 147 countries have ratified it. So why have many countries agreed to the Paris Climate Agreement while America pulls away?

Supporting countries believe that this treaty will have a positive impact on greenhouse emissions and that through financial backing of developing countries, they can reliably affect climate change on a global scale.

However, President Trump is concerned that the treaty’s course of action isn’t what is best for Americans.

“The Paris Climate Accord is simply the latest example of Washington entering into an agreement that disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries leaving American workers — who I love — and taxpayers to absorb the cost in terms of lost jobs, lower wages, shuttered factories and vastly diminished economic production.”

Obama claimed otherwise. Reacting to the President’s decision, he stated the nations that ratified the Paris Agreement will reap the economic benefits.

I believe the United States of America should be at the front of the pack,” Obama said.

However, some research suggests that the environmental benefits claimed by supporters may not reach the intended goal. An MIT study done in April 2016 states that even if every country follows the Paris Agreement to the letter, it could shave off 1.07 degrees Celsius by the end of 2100, a fraction of the treaty’s proposed outcome. Though the treaty urges countries every five years to re-evaluate their plans for a better goal, there is no requirement for any participating country to either contribute or reassess the agreement.

“The Paris agreement is certainly a step in the right direction, but it is only a step,” said Joint Program Principal Research Scientist Erwan Monier.

In regards to what the agreement will cost, every developed country is collectively expected to pay a starting sum of $100 billion per year. This amount raised concerns from President Trump about what American taxpayers could be expected to pay and how the money will be used.

“Beyond the severe energy restrictions inflicted by the Paris accord,” the President stated, “it includes yet another scheme to redistribute wealth out of the United States through the so-called Green Climate Fund — nice name — which calls for developed countries to send $100 billion to developing countries, all on top of America’s existing and massive foreign aid payments. So we’re going to be paying billions and billions and billions of dollars and we’re already way ahead of anyone else. Many other countries haven’t spent anything. And many of them will never pay one dime.”

So far, 36 countries have contributed more than $9.1 billion to the agreement with over $25 million raised by three regional governments and Paris. Initially, America pledged $3 billion and paid $1 billion before President Trump withdrew. However, some supporters view the withdrawal as weakening the American economy.

“The American business community, including 58 Fortune 500 CEOs, strongly supports the Paris agreement,” Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley stated. “These businesses know that withdrawing will cede American leadership on the world stage, and diminish American economic opportunity. If we don’t aggressively lead the clean energy revolution, other nations will beat us — and they will capture the rewards in growing jobs and prosperity.”

His view has been based in the belief that most of the funds will come from the private sector and not from the American taxpayer’s pocket.

Chris Joyce, an NPR Science Desk correspondent, stated that “over half the GCF is expected to come from private investors and banks, not national government treasuries or taxpayers.”

Though Joyce’s view is also faithful, private parties may be expected to pay over half but they aren’t obligated to, nor are they mentioned as, play any financial role. The same can be said for those who state that the money will help developing countries combat climate change. Though the idea is that the money “should enhance” what they do, it is not stated that the financial aid is going expressly towards climate change policies. In the end, the world won’t really know the consequences of the treaty for another couple of years.

For 147 countries, the Paris Climate Agreement has already gone into effect with most ratified in the 2016-2017 year. The next steps of the agreement will entail what individual countries’ long-term plans will be and deciding how much they want to pay in 2020.

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