With widespread worldwide ridicule and condemnation, Donald Trump announced that the United States would be leaving the Paris agreement, joining Syria and Nicaragua as the only two non-signatories. Syria is in the midst of a civil war, while Nicaragua wouldn’t sign because the Paris agreement has no legally binding authority.
The contributions that each individual country should make in order to achieve the worldwide goal are determined by all countries individually and called “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs). Article 3 requires them to be “ambitious”, “represent a progression over time” and set “with the view to achieving the purpose of this Agreement”.
The Paris Agreement is essentially a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ between the signing nations. Countries can choose their specific goals in relation to a reduction of carbon emissions; the agreement only asks that the goals progress over time and attempt to meet the overall goal of keeping the rise in global average temperature to less than 2 degrees Celsius. How this is achieved is up to each individual nation.
The main purpose of this agreement was to get everyone involved. Having a non-legally binding agreement brought many different nations to the table, including the U.S., China, and India, which have all been difficult to negotiate with regarding Climate Change issues and C02 emissions reduction.
So, we know that the Paris agreement does not constitute action necessarily, that would be the NDC in this case.
The United States NDC can be viewed here: http://www4.unfccc.int/ndcregistry/PublishedDocuments/United%20States%20of%20America%20First/U.S.A.%20First%20NDC%20Submission.pdf
The United States had a stated goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 26% from 2005 levels, by 2025. So, target date for goal is 2025, the base data being measured against is 2005.
The plan was for the US to meet these requirements by current regulations:
Several U.S. laws, as well as existing and proposed regulations there under, are relevant to the implementation of the U.S. target, including the Clean Air Act ( 42 U.S.C. §7401 et seq. ), the Energy Policy Act ( 42 U.S.C. §13201 et seq. ), and the Energy Independence and Security Act ( 42 U.S.C. § 17001 et seq. ).
Since 2009, the United States has completed the following regulatory actions:
• Under the Clean Air Act, the United States Department of Transportation and the United States Environmental Protection Agency adopted fuel economy standards for light – duty vehicles for model years 2012 – 2025 and for heavy – duty vehicles for model years 2014 – 2018.
• Under the Energy Policy Act and the Energy Independence and Security Act, the United States Department of Energy has finalized multiple measures addressing buildings sector emissions including energy conservation standards for 29 categories of appliances and equipment as well as a building code determination for commercial buildings.
• Under the Clean Air Act, the United States Environmental Protection Agency has approved the use of specific alternatives to high – GWP HFCs in certain applications through the Significant New Alternatives Policy program.
At this time:
• Under the Clean Air Act, the United States Environmental Protection Agency is moving to finalize by summer 2015 regulations to cut carbon pollution from new and existing power plants. • Under the Clean Air Act, the United States Department of Transportation and the United States Environmental Protection Agency are moving to promulgate post – 2018 fuel economy standards for heavy – duty vehicles.
• Under the Clean Air Act, the United States Environmental Protection Agency is developing standards to address methane emissions from landfills and the oil and gas sector.
• Under the Clean Air Act, the United States Environmental Protection Agency is moving to reduce the use and emissions of high – GWP HFCs through the Significant New Alternatives Policy program.
• Under the Energy Policy Act and the Energy Independence and Security Act, the United States Department of Energy is continuing to reduce buildings sector emissions including by promulgating energy conservation standards for a broad range of appliance s and equipment , as well as a building code determination for residential buildings. In addition, since 2008 the United States has reduced greenhouse gas emissions from Federal Government operations by 17 per cent and , under Executive Order 13693 issued on March 25th 2015, has set a new target to reduce these emissions 40 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.
The United States is moving towards its goals as-is, regardless of Trump’s decision to withdraw from the agreement. California, Oregon and New York have come together to continue their work towards abiding by the terms of the Paris Agreement. Mayors from dozens of major cities and many other governors have pledged to abide by the terms as well.
Which leads me to believe that we have mainly two reasons for the intense backlash, which I do fully support:
1: People are fighting against Climate Change denial and/or Trump in general.
2: People are upset that we now have the appearance of the United States being a pariah state in regards to Climate Change policy. The U.S. is no longer a leader.
It could very well be that people are criticizing with all of this in mind. Regardless, rest assured that Trump is in-fact invigorating people to pay more attention to this issue. If anything, Trump withdrawing from the Paris Agreement will be the single most pivotal movement that we will look back on as to why we not only met the 26% goal, but exceeded it.