In an unprecedented global effort to limit the effects of climate change, representatives from 195 countries came together in Paris, France in December 2015 to reach an international climate accord. The 31-page document, known as the Paris Climate Agreement, acknowledges the dangers of climate change and provides a framework for signatory countries to respond. The agreement is the result of decades of negotiation and sets a clear goal: “Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change." To accomplish this, each country has set its own emissions reduction target and must create a plan outlining how they intend to achieve it. These plans must be submitted by 2020 and will come up for review every five years thereafter. The agreement also mandates a “global stocktake” every five years to inform future targets and measure each country's progress. Additionally, the pact recommends that developed countries continue to take the lead in mobilizing $100 billion in financing from a variety of sources to help developing nations adapt to the impact of climate change and the costs of transitioning to lower carbon economies.
In June 2017, President Trump announced his intention to withdraw the U.S. from the pact. To justify his decision, the president argued that the agreement imposed, “draconian financial and economic burdens” upon the country. Most of the president’s claims, however, have been refuted by lawyers, scientists, economists, and fact-checkers alike. What’s more, the president’s decision isolates America from the global community. On November 7, 2017, Syria announced at the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change that it would join the Paris Agreement, leaving Trump as the only world leader who opposes the pact.
Regardless of the President’s decision, provisions in the Paris Agreement prevent any country, including the United States, from completing the withdrawal process before November 2020. In addition to the delayed timeline of withdrawal, President Trump’s decision is weakened by the We Are Still In (WASI) declaration. Signed by more than 2,600 business, religious, governmental, academic, and community leaders across all fifty states, the WASI declaration condemns the president’s decision and reaffirms the signatories’ continued commitment to upholding the Paris Agreement. Most importantly, the President’s decision cannot undo the progress already made in the private sector. 2016 was a year of record-breaking gains, with renewable energy accounting for nearly two thirds of global net new power capacity. 2017 brought similar success, during which, “renewables saw the highest growth rate of any energy source… meeting a quarter of global energy demand growth.” Global markets clearly understand that reducing emissions is the way of the future, even if the president does not.
In February 2018, Science Advances published new research from Stanford University indicating that individual emission commitments pledged by Paris Agreement nations are not enough to achieve the pact's goal of holding the average global temperature increase to less than 2°C above pre-industrial levels. Though the difference between the countries' commitments and their Paris aspirations may only be 1°C, the research suggests that this is enough to significantly increase the likelihood of extreme, unprecedented weather around the world. At minimum, this dangerous reality calls for strict adherence to the pact.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 degrees celsius in October of 2018. The report warned that time is running out to avoid the potentially catastrophic consequences of global warming like disease, famine, water scarcity, and sea-level rise. The report says that we have as little as 11 years left to hit our targets for slowing global warming, and we are currently way off track. This report inspired advocates and policymakers alike to refocus on climate change.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
The science is clear: only concerted and cooperative international action can adequately respond to this global challenge. That’s why we’re asking Members of Congress to publicly support the Paris Agreement and demonstrate bold global leadership on climate change through support for a robust national climate policy, federal scientific research, and foreign assistance.
Here’s what you can do to help:
Call your Representatives at 202-224-3121 and ask them the Climate Action Now Act (H.R. 9), which would require President Trump to develop a plan for the United States to meet its nationally determined contribution under the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Ask Congress to fully fund efforts to advance scientific research on climate change and climate adaptation, as well as initiatives around the world that reduce carbon emissions and prepare for the reality of a warming planet.
Climate Change: Our Greatest National Security Threat? - Mark Nevitt, Just Security
The Emissions Gap Report 2017 – A UN Environment Synthesis Report
Despite What Trump Says, Climate Change Threatens Our National Security - By John R. Allen and David G. Victor, New York Times
Advancing the U.S. Nonfederal Movement to Support the Paris Agreement – By Gwynne Taraska and Howard Marano, Center for American Progress
Climate Change as a National Security Threat and What to Do About It - By Caitlin Werrell and Francesco Femia, War on the Rocks
How the United States Can Remain Engaged in International Climate Finance – By Gwynne Taraska, et al., Center for American Progress
After Paris: A Climate Agenda that Serves U.S. Interests – By Dr. David Gordon, Divya P. Reddy, and Elizabeth Rosenberg, Center for a New American Security
Why Abandoning Paris Is a Disaster for America – By Daniel B. Baer, et al., Foreign Policy