The USA is “leaving the Paris Climate Agreement”, in about 4 years, President Trump has declared by executive action. Many countries had ratified the agreement, meaning their leader and likely some congress/senate or other governing body agreed. About ¼ of the countries in the world signed it (including the USA) which means that probably just their leader agreed to it. That being the action that Obama took. That was a mistake on his side (although probably all he was able to do as there was likely no way Congress would have ratified it, being Republican at the time). Because of that, it was easily un-signed by Donald Trump.
(Picture from Business Insider)
As far as I can tell there were not really many actual ramifications to signing the Paris Agreement or leaving the Agreement for the USA from the rest of the world. You can read the Paris Agreement by clicking the link. You can also read the 5 page document the USA sent sharing what our plans were to meet the agreement.
Here are the important sentences along with an easy to understand graph.
“The United States intends to achieve an economy-wide target of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 26%-28% below its 2005 level in 2025 and to make best efforts to reduce its emissions by 28%.”- USA First NDC (nationally determined contribution) Submission
“ The United States has already undertaken substantial policy action to reduce its emissions, taking the necessary steps to place us on a path to achieve the 2020 target of reducing emissions in the range of 17 percent below the 2005 level in 2020. “ – USA First NDC (nationally determined contribution) Submission
These were self professed goals to work along with other countries in the world to reduce all our emissions together.
“The US is the world’s second-largest carbon emitter, after China. Together, the countries accounted for 45% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions in 2014.” – Business Insider
The USA is near the top of emissions per capita.
If you take the time to read (Framework Convention on Climate Change) FCCC/CP/2015/L.9/Rev.1 document, better known as “The Paris Agreement”, you wil lfind reference to the “Warsaw International Mechanism” which is another body of individuals that appears to be around to provide some guidance to help make decisions related to climate change.
There is a reference to “$100 billion dollars” “from developed countries to developing countries” that some people seem to think the US is on the hook for. That is false. Here is the statement regarding $100 billion.
“”54. Also decides that, in accordance with Article 9, paragraph 3, of the Agreement, developed countries intend to continue their existing collective mobilization goal through 2025 in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation; prior to 2025 the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement shall set a new collective quantified goal from a floor of USD 100 billion per year, taking into account the needs and priorities of developing countries; “ – Paris Agreement
There is no set plan where that money comes from or how it is counted for. Some of it is in foreign aid, some is hoped to be in private loans. Basically, it is just a hope at the moment and certainly not something the USA is on the hook for.
What we have done is Contribute $1 billion since Dec 2015 (when the treaty was signed by Obama) to the “Green Climate Fund”. This was ⅓ of a pledged $3 billion from Obama. Trump has canceled the rest of that money.
“As Trump mentioned later in his speech, the United States has given the Green Climate Fund $1 billion already. President Barack Obama pledged a total of $3 billion to the fund by 2020 as part of a global goal of $10 billion, but Trump promised not to finance it as a candidate and Congress has not made further contributions since the election.” – NBC news
The whole $3 billion represented about $9/person in the USA (over 5 years) and only a very small percent of our $40+ billion in foreign aid each year. (US budget for 2016)
(picture from Washington Post)
Another source of money for the developing countries is the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) which is administered by the GEF (Global Environment Facility unites 183 countries in partnership with international institutions, civil society organizations (CSOs), and the private sector to address global environmental issues while supporting national sustainable development initiatives. Today the GEF is the largest public funder of projects to improve the global environment. An independently operating financial organization, the GEF provides grants for projects related to biodiversity, climate change, international waters, land degradation, the ozone layer, and persistent organic pollutants.- Wikipedia)
So now that we’ve established that the Paris Agreement:
- Was not costing the USA anything financially
- The Green Climate Fund (separate from the Paris Agreement, was costing the USA very little, $2 billion as part of $40+ billion in foreign aid)
- Emissions reductions were self imposed at 17% currently planned and a projection of up to 28% reduction (compared to 2005 levels in the USA) by 2025.
- Was definitely abandoned by Donald Trump personally but not by individuals and businesses.
What do we do about that?
Assuming you believe in climate change (rising temperatures) and that it could have negative implications for people related to damaged crops, damaged houses and is already happening now, what can you do about it?
I actually hope Donald Trump abandoning the Paris Agreement is a good thing. I (naively) believe that maybe people will start to take individual actions to offset their own carbon footprint instead of thinking the government will do it.
Here are a few things you can do to offset your own carbon footprint.
- Support carbon offset companies/non-profits. Read this great article from Mr. Money Mustache about companies that do that.
- Plant trees! (You also don’t have to do that personally). Here is a company (OneTreePlanted) you can pay $1 to plant 1 tree or $100 to plant $100 trees! WOW. (I am not sure how effective they are at this yet. They seem pretty new, but maybe they’ll contact me after this mention, or maybe I’ll contact to them to get more information about their work.)
- Buy a more efficient vehicle!
The people of the USA need to get over the idea that what the President of the USA does has much direct impact on their lives.
While the President can certainly create policies which affect your life one way or another a few thousand dollars, the fact is that what the government is doing is really not that intrusive on your life, especially not related to how you personally pollute! Not in the USA. What people need to realize is that people have power. We can choose to influence how businesses create products and we can vote for people who will represent our beliefs. If we choose to specify to pay a little more for renewable energy, companies will create it. You can do that for many electric companies.
You can do the same with businesses. You can “vote” with your dollar, instead of just your political vote. Vote every day.
Many business CEO’s and city Mayors in the USA have pledged to keep their businesses and companies to the Paris Agreement. That is laudable and it is really what they should do also. Why should a company start polluting more just because Donald Trump says he is going to? Many companies are already on the energy efficient path (which is inherently green anyway) due to cost savings. So that should not really be an issue. It is unfortunate that the global warming thing has been “sold” to people as “saving the earth”. Most people I know don’t care that much about it. But if it was sold as “saving you money” people would be all over it. Being more efficient is saving you money AND saving the earth at the same time. Let’s try to focus on that, individually, and collectively. Hopefully other countries, companies and individuals continue on that path, largely ignoring what Donald Trump says. As I have said, he really has little power in the arena of what most people and businesses do personally. I suspect that history will look back on him poorly for this action.
I really don’t know what Trump is thinking overall. He is certainly connecting with people who have a certain mindset, that the USA is somehow getting “screwed” by the whole world. I just do not see that. Would you feel “screwed” if you were helping a family member through a tough time? The whole world is our family, and it’s the only one we have and some of them are going through pretty tough times. We should be ashamed that a large percentage are starving while some are living in luxury. Some of the starvation is related to the damage we’ve done to the environment with our many years of technological advancement and our gluttonous use of fossil fuels for energy and transportation. Some is related to corrupt governments (which is something I’m thinking about also and I acknowledge it’s a BIG issue, but not the topic of the day, yet). Once we all get on a path to being more efficient we will be doing everyone else a great service as well as future generations.
Another good one Axel! Looking forward to that corrupt government piece.