Why The U.S. Should Stay In The Paris Climate Agreement – Huffington Post
The big news from the United Nations climate meeting that concluded in Marrakech on November 18 is that more than 190 nations, with or without the U.S., are united in their determination to push forward with the Paris Agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions and keep climate warming to well below 2 degrees C. The Paris Agreement came into force on November 4th, long before most observers anticipated as more than the required 55 nations accounting for more than 55 percent of global emissions moved quickly to ratify the historic agreement. By the end of the two-week climate conference in Marrakech, the number of ratifying nations stood at 111, with the U.S. included among them.
Whether or not the U.S. will keep to its commitment and remain in the Paris Agreement is a looming question, which I have written about elsewhere. Here I lay out reasons why the incoming administration should reevaluate its position on the Paris Agreement and choose to stay. As the president-elect and relevant members of his transition team have made statements dismissing the mounting evidence of human-caused climate change, I focus, for now, on arguments for advancing U.S. interests that are distinct from the urgent need to slow and ultimately halt human-caused global climate change.
Contrary to candidate-Trump’s assertion that the Paris Agreement “gives foreign bureaucrats control over how much energy we use right here in America,” the U.S. and every other party to the agreement has complete control over its own energy use – both the quantity and type. Each party set its own targets, and decided for itself how it would reach its self-determined targets. All are expected to make good faith efforts, but there are no legal sanctions for failing to reach stated targets. Instead, the agreement relies on transparent reporting and review of what nations do and the progress they make as the means by which nations encourage and challenge each other to meet and even exceed their commitments. Each of these elements is included in the agreement because the U.S. wanted it and negotiated for it, seeking to avoid problems that plagued the Kyoto Protocol and hoping to curry at least some bi-partisan support at home.
Within this structure, the U.S. has little if anything to lose from staying in the Paris Agreement, and much to gain. But we have a great deal to lose if we walk away.
All other parties to the agreement have affirmed that they will act to fulfill their commitments, which will bring a wave of transformative changes and innovations in energy, transportation, manufacturing and other systems. These transformations will squeeze out inefficiencies in energy and other resource use, lower costs for renewable energies and reduce negative health and environmental impacts of economic activity, all while enabling people to attain higher living standards and supporting job growth. We’ve already seen and benefitted from falling costs of renewable energy in recent years. For example, the global average cost per kWh of solar photovoltaic electricity fell 60 percent over the period 2009 through 2015, from over $0.30/kWh to $0.12/kWh, with much lower costs of less than $0.07/kWh in some places. Paris will help drive these costs down farther as the industry and users gain experience and increase scale.
The U.S. can share in these benefits if we participate in the Paris Agreement. But if we sit on the sidelines, these transformations will happen everywhere – except here – as we continue to rely heavily on dirtier and less efficient energy of a past century. US businesses will lag in competitiveness as we miss out on this wave of innovation that will determine which businesses and economies will lead in the 21st century.
U.S. businesses could find themselves at a disadvantage in foreign markets if other countries take actions to balance the scales of trading with businesses based in countries that do not regulate carbon. Representatives of Canada, our largest trading partner, France and Mexico suggested in Marrakech that some nations might respond to a U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement with carbon pollution taxes on American-made goods. Whether or not they would follow through, and how the World Trade Organization might rule on carbon tariffs or other actions taken against countries that do not regulate carbon, are only speculations at present. But this would be a significant misstep for an administration that has promised to increase competitiveness and to grow jobs at home.
It is important to note that many businesses support the Paris Agreement, seeing profitable opportunities. More than 365 businesses signed a letter to president-elect Trump calling for the U.S. to reaffirm its commitment to address climate change and implement the Paris Agreement. Among the signatories are Dupont, General Mills, The Hartford, Hewlett Packard, Hilton, Intel, Kellogg Company, Levi Straus, NIKE, Mars Incorporated, Monsanto and Unilever. Other statements of support for the Paris Agreement have been signed by BNY Mellon, Calpine, Colgate Palmolive, Coca Cola, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, Nestle, Pacific Gas & Electric, Rio Tinto, Shell, Sprint and Volvo.