Today, the Trump Administration announced its decision to withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement. While withdrawing fulfills one of Trump’s campaign promises, the reality that the Administration has made such a feckless and self-destructive move comes as a shock. This decision will have potentially irreversible geo-political and environmental ramifications for generations to come.
The Paris climate accord, or “Paris agreement” is an international agreement reached in 2015 with the goal of reducing carbon emissions, slowing rising global temperatures and helping countries manage the impacts of climate change. All 194 other countries in the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change have signed on, and 146 have ratified the agreement. The culmination of over two decades of negotiations, the Paris agreement was finalized through our participation in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), as authorized under President George H. W. Bush.
As a major global economy and the second largest emitter of carbon emissions, the United States’ leadership in drafting the Paris agreement was viewed as a milestone in making meaningful progress fighting global climate change. As a result of our participation, the Paris agreement includes meaningful provisions requiring robust and transparent oversight of how emissions are monitored, verified and reported. Previous climate agreements such as the Kyoto protocol lacked success in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions largely due to the failure of the United States to take on a leadership role. The loss of our leadership and advocacy could represent a devastating setback for the agreement, and will have a ripple effect on emerging economies that are just getting serious about climate change such as India, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Withdrawal could also undermine our ability to negotiate under other international agreements that protect wildlife and the environment, such as the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, and the Convention on international Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Progress in working with other nations to protect the diversity of species could also be curtailed.
Climate change remains the greatest threat to the nature of Massachusetts and requires the bold and innovative leadership our nation has demonstrated in the face of other serious environmental challenges. Regardless of decisions at the federal level we will continue to fight for meaningful actions at the state and local level, and urge you to join with us.
See Mass Audubon President Gary Clayton’s statement about Trump’s expected decision here.
Karen Heymann is Mass Audubon’s Legislative Director