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Fecteau: Trump’s Toxic Reversal on Climate Change

Saturday, June 03, 2017


President Donald J. Trump has disappointingly pulled out of the Paris Accord on climate change, an agreement between nations to willingly reduce carbon emissions. Mr. Trump has said the United States will withdraw so he can renegotiate a better deal, more favorable to the United States. This is odd because all the commitments the United States made were voluntary. 

I am not sure what his motivations are, but this action will have profound global implications. Mr. Trump also canceled billions in payments over the next eight years for the United Nations’ own climate change reduction initiatives. Climate change is one of the most serious threats facing our planet. We can already see the impact of climate change from the various water shortages, intense storms, scorching heat waves and immense flooding occurring around the world. Leaving the Paris Accord is a toxic policy reversal we cannot afford. 

The Paris Accord is very significant. This is the first unified climate change initiative adopted by 195 countries. The accord created a global action plan that would decrease carbon emissions from greenhouse gases (e.g. provide incentives to invest in cleaner energy like solar power), and also mitigate the impact of the changing climate. This agreement was more than a milestone, it is a set of concrete steps to roll back climate change, and voluntarily address the impact of it through transparent laws, and statutory reforms. 

Under the terms of the agreement, the United States can trigger a withdrawal after several years. Yet, even remaining part of the accord is just a nominal gesture, the United States will not meet the targets for reduced greenhouse emissions after all. The United States is the second biggest producer of greenhouse gases – a key factor that is causing climate change. Without American action, greenhouse emissions would continue or even increase, no matter what other countries do, because of our dependence on greenhouse emitting industries. 

The United States is essentially snubbing the rest of the world and could face a major international backlash.  We now join just two other countries -- Syria and Nicaragua – in not being a party to the Paris Accord; meaning, the United States can be branded simply a climate change recluse by our critics. By reneging on the deal, the United States is additionally relinquishing its global leadership, embracing isolationism over cooperation ceding its role to China, a country that reaffirmed its commitment to the Paris Accord. 

There will be profound economic consequences as well. Mr. Trump isn’t putting American workers first, but letting petty politics get in the way of an economic boon.  The green market (e.g. solar panels) is estimated to be worth nearly $6 trillion by 2030. This will be a massive missed economic opportunity for American workers and markets. The countries who remain in the agreement could levy stiff tariffs on imported green technology from the United States costing it countless jobs. 

Withdrawal from the Paris Accord is not just toxic to our environment and our international standing, but for Mr. Trump too. A majority of Americans support the Paris Accord, and Mr. Trump’s approval ratings are – again – hitting record lows.  Even hundreds of businesses have urged Mr. Trump to remain a party to the Paris Accord.  The CEO of Telsa, Elon Musk, has resigned from Trump’s business advisory council in protest over this terrible decision. There is still likely to be more pushback from the business community. 

Pulling out of the Paris Accord is a bad deal all the way around. We have only one planet, and we need to protect it. Nearly all recognized countries agree – including the pariah states of Iran and North Korea -- with that basic principle except now the United States. 

But this shouldn’t be surprising from a man – Mr. Trump – that called climate change a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. 

Matt Fecteau ([email protected]) of Pawtucket, Rhode Island was a Democratic candidate for office in 2014 and 2016. He is a former White House national security intern and Iraq War veteran. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewFecteau


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