Paris Agreement exit dulls U.S. influence


Business leaders tried. So did European allies, key Cabinet officials and members of the White House staff. In the end, President Donald Trump chose to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change. The decision won’t halt the push for clean energy. Other countries will continue to curb their greenhouse emissions.

The president has made the larger task exceedingly more difficult. He has diminished American leadership and influence. Contrary to his contention, the decision to exit puts the country at a competitive disadvantage.

The Paris Agreement represents a modest step in actual reductions of greenhouse emissions. The achievement comes in the framework, the culmination of two decades of work, finding a global way forward in addressing the mounting threat of climate change.

Here is where American leadership makes a difference, setting an example, applying pressure and pursuing an advantage in innovation.

The failure of leadership extends to how the president justified his stance. He contends that Americans have been treated unfairly. For instance, he asserts that China “will be allowed” to build “hundreds of additional coal plants.” This just isn’t true. The agreement, again, is voluntary. Nothing is permitted or not, each country defining its approach.

China has announced the cancellation of plans to build more than 100 coal-fired power plants.

The president warns that the agreement would trigger a “massive redistribution” of American wealth to other countries. He is alluding, in part, to the U.N. Green Climate Fund, a tool for wealthier nations to aid developing countries in responding to climate change. The United States has contributed $1 billion of the $3 billion it has pledged. Forty-three countries have made pledges, including some developing countries. Sweden has put up nearly $600 million.

The fund reflects the greater role of developed countries in generating greenhouse gases. In 2015, the United States produced per-capita more than double the carbon dioxide emissions of China and eight times more than India.

Then, consider the United States ranks 11th in its per-capita contribution to the Green Climate Fund.

Most striking was the president’s neglect of the benefits in addressing climate change or the heavy costs of a warming planet. The Paris Agreement reflects a global recognition of both. One key question is: If it now begins to unravel, how much time will be lost before there is replacement?

— Akron Beacon Journal