The Paris agreement is bigger than politics
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The U.S. has a long history of rallying other nations around grand coalitions to solve global challenges. Now, the eyes of the world are on us once again. 

In 2015, nearly every nation on the planet recognized that some decisions are bigger than politics. They put aside differences and historical divisions to collectively change course on a pressing global problem by ratifying the historic Paris agreement combating climate change. The U.S. helped lead that charge. 

On Saturday, six of the world’s largest economies reaffirmed their support for the Paris agreement at the G-7 summit in Sicily. The U.S. remained conspicuously silent.

As we wait to learn the Trump administration’s official decision about whether to stay party to the deal, an increasingly destabilizing climate effect represents a growing threat to American prosperity and to global security.

This is not rocket science. Staying in the agreement not only builds opportunities to work with other nations to mitigate the growing risks of climate-related impacts to our food and water systems, Paris also helps accelerate one of America’s best current job creators — clean energy.

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Our booming clean energy economy now employs more than 3.3 million Americans — more than all jobs in U.S. conventional energy combined. Today, solar accounts for one in 50 new U.S. jobs. The job of wind turbine technician is predicted to be the single fastest-growing occupation in the United States over the next decade, just edging out physical and occupational therapists.

 

These clean energy jobs don’t pick favorites among red or blue states; you find them distributed across our country — California, Texas, New York, Florida and Michigan are some of the biggest clean energy job creators so far. 

And without political fanfare, the companies at the heart of our American economy are moving toward this cleaner future. Nearly half of America's largest companies have already set clean energy targets. Last year alone, corporate efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions saved $3.7 billion for their bottom lines. 

The U.S. private sector is well-positioned to succeed in this new economy, and see the Paris agreement as a way to create a level playing field and open up new markets. This is why so many companies are sending letters directly to the president calling for the U.S. to stay in the accord. Thousands more companies are calling on both the administration and Congress to remain steadfast in its support of Paris.

There is another downside to leaving. These companies know pulling out of the Paris deal will hurt investments they have already made and pose risks to future trade negotiations, not to mention the possibility of some nations imposing carbon tariffs on American goods.

Even the fossil-fuel industry sees benefits in the certainty and predictability created by finally having a global consensus on addressing climate change. Royal Dutch Shell, BP, ExxonMobil and Peabody Energy Corp., among others, support staying in the Paris agreement.

Not long ago, the need to act on climate change was something on which both parties in Washington could agree: In 2003, Sen. John McCainJohn McCainBush biographer: Trump has moved the goalpost for civilized society White House to pressure McConnell on ObamaCare McCain: Trump needs to state difference between bigots and those fighting hate MORE (R-Ariz.) and former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) introduced the Climate Stewardship Act; in 2007, Lieberman joined Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) on the Climate Security Act; and in 2009, former Sen. John KerryJohn KerryCongress needs to assert the war power against a dangerous president Sinclair and 'Big Media': The outrage that caused the outrage Tillerson sets a lost State Department on the right course MORE (D-Mass.) and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamGraham: Trump's Charlottesville rhetoric 'dividing Americans, not healing them' OPINION: Congress should censure Trump for his unfit conduct Supporting 'Dreamers' is our civic and moral duty MORE (R-S.C.) declared the need for climate legislation in a joint op-ed while crafting their own comprehensive bill.

There are signs that we are headed back toward those brighter days. A strictly bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus is growing fast and its leaders support staying in the Paris agreement. So do voters. Even among people who voted for President Trump, only 28 percent want the U.S. to leave the agreement.

A short-term political compass bearing should not be our guide. For more than a half-century, U.S. leadership has been the linchpin of some of the world’s most important international agreements — going back to brokering the Bretton Woods institutions that helped the globe recover from World War II. For the first time, countries are questioning whether they can rely on the United States as an anchor in a turbulent world. They question whether our word should still be considered our bond.

Like it or not, this moment and this issue have emerged as a great test of America’s ability to come together for the greater good. For the sake of our country, and the planet we share, it is time to transcend politics once again.

Carter Roberts (@carter_roberts) is president and CEO of the World Wildlife Fund.


The views of contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.