At the Paris negotiations, the global community finally adopted the type of plan the United States had long sought—a flexible dialogue going forward that would require appropriate contributions from all countries, judged by all countries. It took more than a decade for the best negotiators ever assembled by the American government to turn this dialogue around from not focusing solely on the historical responsibility of industrialized countries like the United States, but also addressing the growing pollution of the future coming mostly from the developing world. What we were, China and India will soon become, so all nations must agree to share in the solution. In Paris, the world agreed to that proposition, with 197 countries pledging their own plans to combat climate change.
The United States is arguably in the best position to benefit economically from the global transition to a clean energy economy. U.S. carbon dioxide emissions are now lower than they have been since 1994, thanks to strong market forces and state policies to support renewable energy and new technologies to produce shale gas at very low costs. If we can lead the world to a lower emissions economy, the new jobs will be ours. The Paris Agreement creates new opportunities and expanding markets abroad that U.S. companies are well positioned to exploit. We should not cede this space to countries like China that are investing heavily in renewable technologies.
The United States abandoned Kyoto because China and India were not part of the solution. If we refuse to do our part now, we shouldn’t be surprised if China and India fail to meet their Paris commitments.
That chain of events would be disastrous.
In the coming decades, developing countries are projected to drive emissions growth. The Paris Agreement is our opportunity to reshape that future in ways that protect our climate and our economy from the explosive emissions growth that would otherwise occur. Carbon launched into the atmosphere from anywhere has impacts all around the world. Without a robust Paris process, emissions increases in the developing world are likely to impose huge costs here at home as we struggle to adapt to the impacts on our health, our property, our jobs and our environment.
If the Trump Administration chooses now to pull out of a global agreement that the U.S. government pushed so hard for over a dozen years, what is the world to think? No doubt, our credibility and leverage on other foreign policy issues would take a huge hit. The nations of the world rightfully expect U.S. policy to be foresighted and steadfast. President Trump has an important opportunity to show the world that the promises of the United States are durable, especially with respect to a universal threat as serious as climate change.