Op-Ed: U.S. Needs to Stay Engaged in Global Climate Agreement

Source: By Ernie Shea, 25x25 • Posted: Thursday, April 20, 2017

Reports circulating around Washington indicate a decision is coming from the White House soon to determine whether President Trump will keep the United States engaged in the global climate agreement reached in Paris 16 months ago.

During his election campaign last year, Trump claimed the U.S. involvement in the international pact to reduce global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, driven by the Obama administration, promoted policies that hurt the domestic coal industry and hampered U.S. development of oil and gas. He vowed to take the United States out of the agreement.

However, the president has since said he has an “open mind” about the climate pact. While key presidential advisors are reportedly divided over the issue, a number of those in the White House inner circle are arguing that it’s better to stay involved in the climate agreement than to be on the outside looking in.

Even oil giants ExxonMobil, BP and Shell say the United States should remain engaged in the global effort to address climate change, arguing that the administration can leverage the country’s status as one of the world’s greatest energy producers in negotiations to come. Surprisingly enough, coal interests are also calling on the president to stay in the pact, believing it can ultimately spark federal incentives and funding for additional research on carbon capture and sequestration technology that may save the industry.

The 25x’25 Alliance also recommends to the president that the United States remain in the agreement that was reached in 2015 by nearly 200 nations around the world. The facts are that it makes good economic sense.

We cannot emphasize enough that dealing with climate change is a bottom-line business. Opportunities presented by the agreement, now and in the future, are being recognized by corporations like Ikea, Nike and Wal-Mart, who have joined universities, venture capital funds and other major investor groups in touting the agreement’s ability to set up financing mechanisms that can channel investments toward low- and no-carbon energy technologies.

Six of the world’s largest multilateral development banks are in the process of investing nearly $300 billion between now and 2020 in efforts to stem climate change, demonstrating a commitment by the finance industry to support and fund clean energy research and the big renewable energy initiatives that nations, states and cities are launching to address climate change.

The Paris agreement commits nations of the world to report progress on reducing GHG emissions to a level that will hold the ongoing increase in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius, and below the maximum 2 degrees C that virtually all of the world’s climate scientists say cannot be exceeded without irreversible environmental damages.

The agreement presents a tremendous opportunity for U.S. agriculture, which can offer major reductions in GHGs through the soil carbon sequestration that comes from conservation tillage and cover crops, improved grazing systems, the restoration of degraded agricultural soils and grasslands, and agroforestry. Recent lifecycle analyses also point out that the use of biofuels in our transportation system significantly reduces emissions when compared to the use of petroleum-based fuels. The capture and conversion of methane from livestock facilities to useful energy also helps to reduce emissions.

While the agreement reached in Paris is nonbinding, it’s important to point out that the nearly 200 countries – including nations with strong economies, those that have rapidly growing economies and those that are still developing – agreed that action on climate change is critically needed. And that gives the pact unprecedented breadth and significance.

The United States currently holds a position of leadership on the path to the inevitable low-carbon, 21st-century global economy. If the Trump administration chooses to abdicate from that leadership role, this country could find itself trailing other nations as they boost their economies and create the jobs that come with a clear vision of what the future holds – and needs. This country needs to stay on the path, and not be left behind.