--UPDATE-- US pulls out of Paris Climate Agreement
US President Donald Trump told the world during his Presidential campaign that the United States will break its promise to join the fight against climate change, and is set to announce his decision regarding the Paris Climate Agreement today at 3 pm, Eastern Time.
This is huge loss for climate change action in the US, as federal leadership on coal emissions, encouraging renewables, and creating green tech will now become the responsibility of states, municipalities, and individuals.
Its also a huge loss for the planet, because not having the world’s second largest emitter at the table with almost every single other nation means the rest of the us are going to have to move faster to reduce emissions.
This is also a loss for Canada, as those who seek to gain from weakening our commitments on climate will replay the tired old arguments that Canada can’t take action on climate if Trump’s America is passing the buck to future generations.
A couple things to keep in mind when you hear those arguments:
- First, the US action on climate is actually continuing even under the Trump administration. This is because the impacts of Obama’s Clean Power Plan have already hit the atmosphere: the 2024 goal for emissions from the electricity sector has already been met and the 2030 target is close to being met.
- Supporters of climate action are going to continue fighting roll back of climate action in court, in town hall meetings with their leaders, and in the streets.
- As in Canada, when we have climate laggards or even opponents of climate action power, other governments closer to the electorate are feeling the heat from their constituents, and will continue to take action through carbon pricing, incentives for renewables, and cancelling fossil fuel projects like the Keystone XL pipeline. A quick scroll through the press releases from the Sierra Club US shows town and city mayors continue to take on the commitment to become 100% renewable, even under a Trump pull out.
- Inaction on the part of the states does NOT mean action in Canada threatens our economy. A report from the Ecofiscal Commission shows that nation-wide, only 5 percent of our economy is “trade exposed” to a carbon levy.
- The economics of energy is changing. It is significant that even when Trump announced he was repealing rules for coal in the US, the head of one of the largest coal companies in the US, Murray Energy, said Trump needs to “temper “ his expectations for job revival from coal. The renewable energy genie is fully out of the bottle now and Trump’s signature (and even his tweets!) cannot put it back in. Across the world, investors and energy industry players are shifting energy portfolios as the cost of energy storage and renewables gets cheaper.
Trump could do one of two things today. Stay in the Paris Accord but play an obstructionist role to progress at global talks. Or the US could leave the agreement, and let the rest of the world get on with saving the planet.
Although I want the US to keep its commitments, I am tempted to hope it’s the latter, since obstruction from a voice as powerful as the US could drag the rest of the world down when we need “full court press” on this issue.
If Trump stays in Paris, concerted diplomatic action will be needed to make sure moves he makes on the part of the fossil fuel industry and against good science are minimized and voices of those leaders taking action in the US are given a greater role on the international stage.
On a more personal note, for our friends, family, and colleagues living in the US: Canadians have been where you are today. Back in 2012, Canada formally pulled out of the Kyoto Accord. We know the fear, frustration, and helplessness you must feel as your national leaders take action that the majority of your population does not support (70% of Americans support staying with the Paris commitments, when Canada pulled out of Kyoto, 57% of Canadian polled would have accepted much-needed action on climate, such a carbon tax).
Sierra Club Canada Foundation will be doing our part to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels by fighting pipelines, encouraging renewables and energy efficiency, and encouraging jobs for those workers whose opportunities are shifting away from fossil fuel industries.
We’ll also be watching our government closely for any backtracking on its commitment to up its game on climate targets - remember, our existing targets were only meant to be the bare minimum for Canada - “a floor not a ceiling.”
Our Environment Minister supported keeping global temperatures at or below 1.5 degrees Celsius at UN climate talks, and we'll need action to follow those words. The 3-year delay on methane emission regulations is worrying, and we’ll be watching for further slippage.
Regardless of the outcome, today’s announcement will call for greater leadership, not less. We know we can count on our members and supporters to provide it. We know you’re counting on us, too.
Be assured. We’re not going anywhere.
Yours in determination,
Gretchen Fitzgerald - National Program Director
P.S.: One thing you can do today as we watch for this announcement is to join the global community and send a letter, email, or social media message (Twitter hashtag #ActOnClimate) to your leaders and friends, saying you support action on climate.