A retreat from the Paris climate pact would imperil US interests
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The Trump administration is expected to soon decide whether the U.S. should remain in the Paris Agreement, a global pact to curb climate change that took effect last year. During his campaign, Trump famously said that he would “cancel’ the agreement.

Meanwhile, his advisors have been divided on the issue. The arguments for withdrawing from the Paris Agreement rely on misinformation and propaganda. In reality, the agreement advances U.S. interests — and a wide-ranging coalition of stakeholders consequently supports the pact.

Despite claims to the contrary, the agreement applies to both developed and developing countries. In fact, the U.S. played a central role in designing the pact to draw every nation — not just the U.S. and our industrialized allies — into the climate effort. Under the agreement, all countries submit national climate goals every five years.

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Importantly, the Paris Agreement is about ambition, not obligation. This means that the agreement does not bind the United States to an emissions reduction target, as opponents have claimed. The national climate goals associated with the agreement are self-determined, not internationally imposed, and are open to revision. Likewise, these goals are not binding under international law and there is no penalty for ultimately failing to meet them.

 

Furthermore, in the spirit of self-determination, countries are free to pursue their own domestic energy policies.The agreement does not bind countries to specific domestic actions, such as the Clean Power Plan in the United States.

There is no plausible argument that participation in the Paris Agreement would constrain or burden the U.S. Instead, it is absence from the global climate effort that would undermine U.S. interests.

A retreat from the climate movement would imperil our competitiveness as other countries seek to lead the pivot toward nonpolluting energy — and to dominate clean energy markets and the global energy conversation. China, for example, is the world leader in new renewable energy investment. In 2016 alone, China invested $78.3 billion in renewable energy — nearly 70 percent more than the United States invested that same year. 

U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement would also mean giving up participating in — and having a role in developing — the provisions of the pact that ensure all countries, including emerging economies such as China and India, are transparent about their emissions. Carbon pollution does not respect national boundaries. With China and India representing the largest and third largest emitters of greenhouse gases, the administration should be motivated to have a seat at the table.

For these reasons and others, the Paris Agreement has developed a wide and diverse base of support in the United States. Both Democratic and Republican governors are calling for continued participation in the pact.

Republican senators, including Alaska’s Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiPelosi: 'No intention' of abandoning Democrats' infrastructure goals What the Democrats should be doing to reach true bipartisanship Democrats mull overhaul of sweeping election bill MORE and Tennessee’s Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  MORE, and Republican representatives, such as North Dakota’s Kevin Cramer, likewise recommend against withdrawal. Even Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Energy Rick Perry support staying in the agreement.

In the private sector, more than a thousand companies — and energy giants such as Shell and Exxon — support implementation of the pact. Most importantly, so do the majority of U.S. voters — including the majority of voters in every state.

A retreat from the global climate effort would run counter to the will and interests of the American people. Only irrationality induced by ideology — or loyalty to polluters over the health and welfare of the country and the planet — would account for it.

Gwynne Taraska is the associate director of energy and environment policy at the Center for American Progress. She was previously the research director of the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy at George Mason University.


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