Paris Climate Agreement: Everything You Need To Know
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A world that is safer and more secure, more prosperous, and more free. In December 2015, that was the world then-president Barack Obama envisioned we would leave todays children when he announced that the United States, along with nearly 200 other countries, had committed to the Paris Climate Agreement, an ambitious global action plan to fight climate change.
But less than two years later, then-president Donald Trump put that future in jeopardy by announcing his plan to withdraw the United States from the accorda step that became official on as part of a larger effort to dismantle decades of U.S. environmental policy. Fortunately, American voters also got their say in November 2020, ousting Trump and sending Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to the White House.
Following President Bidens day one executive order, the United States officially rejoined the landmark Paris Agreement on February 19, 2021, positioning the country to once again be part of the global climate solution. Meanwhile, city, state, business, and civic leaders across the country and around the world have been ramping up efforts to drive the clean energy advances needed to meet the goals of the agreement and put the brakes on dangerous climate change.
Heres a look at what the Paris Agreement does, how it works, and why its so critical to our future.
Protesters gather near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France during the 2015 UN Climate Conference.
Exporting Increased Emissions Through Gas
It is equally worrying that emissions outside the US might increase due to the significant support for fossil fuel production and exports in the US, mainly from unconventional gas through fracking. The US is now the worlds largest producer of crude oil and gas .
LNG exports grew by 53% from 2017-2018, and are expected to more than double by 2020 . The US is incentivising the development of new gas-related infrastructure overseas to expand its export market .
This significant investment into large-scale gas infrastructure will lead importing countries to a lock-in of their energy supply into a fossil-dependent pathway that is not compatible with the Paris Agreements temperature goal. The lock-in of those technologies are also very likely to result in stranded assets .
The intention of the worlds second-largest polluter to withdraw from the Paris Agreement was initially a major concern, sparking fears that it would potentially lead to an avalanche effect on other countries that voiced their intention to also pull out from the accord. Brazil has threatened to abandon the Paris Agreement but has not done so. After more than two years since the Trump administration first announced its intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, the international support behind the Paris Agreement has proven strong, and no other country besides the US has yet pulled out. The last remaining major emitter, Russia, joined the Paris Agreement on October 7th .
How Did We Get Here
You could be forgiven for thinking the United States quit the global climate change agreement a long time ago. Ever since 2017, when President Trump announced his intention to abandon the pact, hes spoken about withdrawal as if it was a done deal. In fact, however, pulling out of the Paris Agreement has been a lengthy process.
On Nov. 4, 2019, the earliest possible day under United Nations rules that a country could begin the final withdrawal process, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo filed paperwork to do so. It automatically finalized a year later. So, as of Wednesday morning, the United States is officially no longer a part of the group of nations pledging to address climate change.
President Trump has called the Paris Agreement job-killing and said it would punish the American people while enriching foreign polluters.
Technically, though, the Paris Agreement doesnt require the United States to do anything. In fact, its not even a treaty. Its a nonbinding agreement among nations of all levels of wealth and responsibility for causing climate change to reduce domestic emissions.
The accord essentially ties together every nations voluntary emissions pledge in a single forum, with the understanding that countries will set even tougher targets over time over time. The United States under President Barack Obama promised to reduce its emissions about 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, but progress on that goal stopped under the Trump administration.
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The Environment Is On The Ballot Experts Say
When voters cast their ballots on Election Day, many will be making the decision on how the country will move forward on climate action, experts said.
Trump’s administration has gone after the strict emissions regulations in California, for instance, and experts expect him to continue denying the science behind topics such as climate change, natural disasters and even the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a gravitate toward an expansion of oil and gas drilling.
Frances Moore, assistant professor in the department of environmental science and policy at the University of California, Davis, said she believes that if Trump is re-elected, it would cause Paris Agreement to experience a “slow, anemic decline.”
“Its unlikely, I think, that the Paris Agreement forum could survive as a serious international agreement thats really motivating countries to do things that they otherwise wouldnt be doing,” if Trump were to remain president, she said.
Biden has outlined his commitment to protect the environment with a proposed a $5 trillion plan. His plan to address the climate emergency would aspire to a 100% clean energy economy and reaching net-zero emissions no later than 2050.
While Biden’s climate plan has been recognized as the most ambitious the U.S. has ever proposed, it still may not hit the mark, according to some critics.
Us Quits Paris Climate Agreement: Questions And Answers
President Trumps withdrawal formally came into force the day after Election Day in the United States. Heres what it means.
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WASHINGTON Au revoir, Paris Agreement. As of Wednesday, under United Nations rules, the United States is officially out of the global climate accord. Heres a look at how it happened, what it means and what might happen next.
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How Much Ground Has Been Lost
At the time they were established, the emissions reductions targets the U.S set for itself were considered steep, but not unattainable. Hitting them would have required careful, coordinated efforts at the federal, state, and local levels. But the Trump administration actively disassembled many of the efforts that would have fed into success, Light says.
Most notably, the administration rolled back the Clean Power Plan, a carbon emissions standard for power plants introduced in 2015 that would have decreased greenhouse gas waste from electricity production by more than 30 percent by 2030. That would have accounted for a good part of the countrys Paris goals, since electricity production accounts for about one-third of the countrys emissions.
Similarly, Trumps administration weakened rules controlling car and truck fuel efficiency. Transportation accounts for the largest fraction of American emissions, slightly under a third of the annual total. Under an Obama-era rule, car and truck efficiency was scheduled to increase to an average of 49.5 miles per gallon by 2030. Under the new rules, that number is 42.3 miles per gallon. The difference adds up: compared to the Obama era rules.
And other progress on powerful planet-warming gasesthe hydrofluorocarbons that had first been effectively internationally regulated by the Montreal Protocolalso stalled in recent years, potentially adding extra heat to the near future and putting the U.S.s Paris goals further out of reach.
Trump Serves Notice To Quit Paris Climate Agreement
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WASHINGTON The Trump administration formally notified the United Nations on Monday that it would withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement on climate change, leaving global climate diplomats to plot a way forward without the cooperation of the worlds largest economy.
The action, which came on the first day possible under the accords complex rules on withdrawal, begins a yearlong countdown to the United States exit and a concerted effort to preserve the Paris Agreement, under which nearly 200 nations have pledged to cut greenhouse emissions and to help poor countries cope with the worst effects of an already warming planet.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and issued a statement saying the accord would impose intolerable burdens on the American economy.
The U.S. approach incorporates the reality of the global energy mix and uses all energy sources and technologies cleanly and efficiently, including fossils fuels, nuclear energy, and renewable energy, Mr. Pompeo said.
Though American participation in the Paris Agreement will ultimately be determined by the outcome of the 2020 election, supporters of the pact say they have to plan for a future without American cooperation. And diplomats fear that Mr. Trump, who has mocked climate science as a hoax, will begin actively working against global efforts to move away from planet-warming fossil fuels, like coal, oil and natural gas.
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What Are The Paris Agreement’s Costs
Theres a lot of misinformation out there about the Paris Agreement, including the idea that it will hurt the U.S. economy. That was among a number of unfounded claimsformer president Trump repeated, arguing that the accord would cost the U.S. economy $3 trillion by 2040 and $2.7 million jobs by 2025, making us less competitive against China and India. But as fact checkers noted, these statistics originated from a debunked March 2017 study that exaggerated the future costs of emissions reductions, underestimated advances in energy efficiency and clean energy technologies, and outright ignored the huge health and economic costs of climate change itself. Climate change is already costing public health. Research from NRDC scientists shows how inaction on climate change is responsible for many billions in health costs each year in just the United Statesas communities around the world experience greater displacement, illness, famine, water shortages, civil strife, and death.
Finally, rather than giving China and India a pass to pollute, as Trump claimed, the pact represents the first time those two major developing economies have agreed to concrete and time-bound climate commitments. Both countries, which are already poised to lead the world in renewable energy, have made significant progress to meet their Paris goals.
M. Frustino/Associated Press
Trump Pulls Us Out Of Paris Climate Agreement
WASHINGTON The United States will pull out of a landmark global coalition meant to curb emissions that cause climate change, President Donald Trump announced Thursday.
“The United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord,” Trump said to applause from the crowd gathered in the White House Rose Garden.
He added that the U.S. will begin negotiations to re-enter either the Paris accord or a new treaty on terms that are better for American businesses and taxpayers.
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Us Ditching Paris Climate Agreement Pres Trump Declares
“So were getting out, but we will start to negotiate and we will see if we can make a deal thats fair,” he said.
Vice President Mike Pence praised Trump for keeping his campaign promises and abiding by his “America First” mantra. In talking points obtained by NBC News just before Trump’s announcement, the White House argued the agreement was “negotiated poorly” and was too costly for the American people with few tangible gains.
The long-awaited decision came as little surprise, with multiple administration officials telling NBC News earlier in the week that the president was leaning toward leaving the signature 2015 agreement that nearly every other country on Earth has embraced.
Still, the decision is a blow to environmentalists, business leaders and international figures, many of whom have urged Trump to reconsider.