The Paris climate agreement: Stay in, renegotiate
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In his first trip abroad as president, Donald Trump illustrated that American leadership and engagement remains a necessary component of achieving peace, prosperity and progress between nations.

This century-old lesson serves as a cornerstone of world diplomacy and as a lesson of how we must chart a course forward on addressing global challenges. His first trip was also characterized by conversations on climate change and the Paris Agreement with the Pope and other heads of state.

As the Trump administration contemplates America’s future role in the deal, experienced public servants on both sides of the aisle have recommended that America should remain in the accord. Leaders from inside the administration, including Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and from states across the country, like Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Walmart to stop selling e-cigarettes | Senators press FDA to pull most e-cigarettes immediately | House panel tees up e-cig hearing for next week Bipartisan group of senators urges FDA to pull most e-cigarettes immediately Sinema touts bipartisan record as Arizona Democrats plan censure vote MORE (R-Alaska), Rep. Ryan Costello (R-Penn.) and Gov. Charlie Baker (R-Mass.) have voiced support for staying in the agreement.

This is a path that would keep the U.S. at the table in global discussions on energy development, economic growth, security and the environment. 

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Partisans argue that the choice on the Paris Agreement is binary — the U.S. should stay in as-is or we should walk away. In fact, a third path is possible — one tailor-made for a Commander-in-Chief who prides himself on the “art of the deal” and engaging in renegotiations to better align elements to our national interests.

 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpJulián Castro: It's time for House Democrats to 'do something' about Trump Warren: Congress is 'complicit' with Trump 'by failing to act' Sanders to join teachers, auto workers striking in Midwest MORE should keep the U.S. in the agreement with the goal of opening a new round of negotiations that would allow the administration to pursue domestic energy and job creation centered on the continued adoption of clean energy technologies and the implementation of market-friendly, all-of-the-above energy policies.

Recently, my organization Citizens For Responsible Energy Solutions Forum (CRES Forum), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization committed to educating the public and influencing the national conversation about commonsense clean energy, shared a memo with Tillerson and Special Assistant for International Energy and Environment George David Banks. In it, we offered four concrete recommendations in support of a policy-focused dialogue for future negotiations under the United Nations framework.

UN-led financial institutions need to be reviewed and consolidated to the greatest extent possible. The Paris Agreement prioritizes the Green Climate Fund, but unfortunately, UN-led financial institutions often compete for funds and duplicate one another in terms of climate-related programming. The result is diluted financial resources and a complicated landscape for developing countries seeking assistance.

Beyond that, UN institutions have substantially less oversight than multilateral development banks like the Global Environmental Facility, which is administered by the World Bank. Therefore, funds should be both administered by and directed to multilateral development banks, which typically require repayment over time and therefore provide more funding for future activities.

Additionally, the consolidation of multilateral financial institutions under U.S. government supervision could allow the U.S. to gain greater control and oversight of international financial institutions and increase aid efficacy for developed countries. This consolidation could also provide a less burdensome and complex financial landscape that could ease access for developing countries, increasing the availability of more bank money due to repayment requirements.

How we account for climate finance under the Paris Agreement is another important element for renegotiation. Since previous negotiations were intended to make accounting for climate finance more stringent, only projects motivated to deal with climate change would count towards the financial goals of the deal, instead of broadly achieving development goals.

This approach is outdated. Today, most developed countries — including the U.S. — have incorporated climate change into all foreign aid spending. Instead, countries should be allowed to count bilateral spending that has integrated climate change. Because spending abroad is directly attributed to the U.S., not a multilateral donor, this would allow the U.S. to gain more control over aid spending and a stronger geopolitical standing.

Finally, a revised agreement should include a provision for third-party verification of greenhouse gas reporting disputes. Although the sole binding provision of the accord relates to reporting, many countries — especially ones that are non-democratic — routinely falsify data. When countries falsely claim substantive reductions from switching to clean energy technologies, America’s status as a worldwide energy leader is jeopardized. Adding this provision would help to ensure that nations are held accountable when engaging in this harmful activity.

Should the Trump administration pursue the prudent course of building upon the Paris Agreement, the U.S. will have the prime opportunity to negotiate important elements to better suit our national interests. With continued implementation of innovative, clean energy technologies and free-market, all-of-the-above energy policies, our nation can continue to lead the world in efforts to advance energy independence, reduce emissions and unleash economic potential for years to come.

The path forward is clear: We should stay in and renegotiate.

Charles Hernick is the Director of Policy and Advocacy at Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions (CRES) Forum, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization committed to educating the public and influencing the national conversation about clean energy.


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