Can Trump Stand in the Way of the Paris Climate Agreement?
The current administration and its immediate predecessor had very different views on climate change. During the Obama era, combatting climate change was regularly on the docket. In a September 2016 memorandum, Obama referred to climate change as a national security threat. He also dedicated immense amounts of land across the country from Maine to Utah towards conservation in his last months in office. Furthermore, Obama and his administration allocated resources to help countries come to an agreement in Paris on how best to approach climate change. But, with democracy comes change. This time, it came in the form of Donald Trump and his “Make America Great Again” campaign. Trump’s campaign argued that resources should not be allocated to an international agreement regarding climate change–something he has dismissed–nor to something that didn’t put America’s interests first. Therefore, Trump began the process to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. Trump’s agenda is aggressively America first and he said he wanted to create a separate deal more suited to America’s needs and desires.
The country is fragmented by Trump’s decision and some of the cities, states, universities, and companies that do not agree are taking matters into their own hands. There is a coalition of mayors self-named the #ClimateMayors that have committed to uphold all the goals agreed to in the Paris Climate Agreement. It has also sparked even greater change in places like Park City, Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, and Boulder, Colorado pledging to 100% renewable energy through the Climate Reality Project. Entire states such as Washington, New York, and California are moving forward with the Paris Climate Agreement as well. Universities such as Emory, Brandeis, Wesleyan, and many others are also participating in this plan. Even the private sector is joining in. Hewlett-Packard and Mars agreed to comply and Elon Musk stepped down from White House advisory councils when Trump spoke about leaving the Paris Agreement. All of this seems to be lead by Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City. Bloomberg believes that even without the help of the federal government, America can surpass its original goals of the agreement.
Bloomberg’s vision of surpassing the original goals is quite lofty. The stated goals would be difficult to achieve without the federal government as a unifying body. They possess overall legal jurisdictions to monitor and regulate the goals unlike any citizen or private organization. An informal coalition still moving forward with the Paris Agreement would need constant attention and resources to sustain itself, which can be difficult because it is not the only thing these organizations are focusing on. Movements that are not backed by institutions have difficulty maintaining traction. This movement has in its favor that it is incredibly diverse. It has both the public and private sectors involved and is quite geographically diverse throughout the entire United States. Mr. Bloomberg’s charity, Bloomberg Philanthropies, offered to pay what the United States would pay for the framework convention that coordinates the Paris Agreement. This is a particular slap in the face because it shows that the citizens and organizations of the United States do not need the federal government to facilitate the achievement of their goals.
With such a vocal opposition, it is difficult to hear those in support of Trump leaving the Paris Climate Agreement. The only ones that seemed to be speaking up were those high up in the Republican Party. For the general population supporting Trump, his decision seemed to hold less weight than it did for his opposers. Supporters see this as one of the many steps to restoring America to its former glory. They do not have the time or energy to fight climate change when their job market is shrinking. But again this theory goes against the 359 mayors all across the United States that signed on to uphold the Paris Agreement. There seems to be a disconnect about what exactly the American people want in regards to fighting climate change while some see it as a huge step back for America others are less concerned. But, whatever Trump is doing, whether that be leaving the Paris Climate Agreement or slashing funding to the Environmental Protection Agency, it is causing a severe backlash and is reigniting a flame within the environmental movement. Trump’s actions are bold and catching the world’s attention, whether that be good or bad. But it would serve him well to bring the country together with his decisions instead of tearing it further apart. After all, to make America great again, wouldn’t you have to ask the American people what great means to them?
Biscupski, Jackie. “SLC Leads on Nationwide Push for 100% Renewable Energy.” SLC Mayor’s Blog, April 26, 2017. https://slcmayorblog.com/2017/04/26/slc-leads-on-nationwide-push-for-100-renewable-energy/.
Climate Reality Project. “Why the US Leaving the Paris Agreement Isn’t the End of the World.” Climate Reality. Accessed July 23, 2017.
Mayors, Climate. “361 #ClimateMayors Adopt, Honor and Uphold #ParisAgreement Goals.” Medium, June 1, 2017. https://medium.com/@ClimateMayors/climate-mayors-commit-to-adopt-honor-and-uphold-paris-climate-agreement-goals-ba566e260097.
“Presidential Memorandum — Climate Change and National Security.” Whitehouse.gov, September 21, 2016. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2016/09/21/presidential-memorandum-climate-change-and-national-security.
Tabuchi, Hiroko, and Henry Fountain. “Bucking Trump, These Cities, States and Companies Commit to Paris Accord.” The New York Times, June 1, 2017, sec. Climate. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/01/climate/american-cities-climate-standards.html.