There has been a lot of political posturing when it comes to Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, but deciphering the truth from all of the bias can be a truly daunting task. Ultimately, the withdraw sees the U.S. join Nicaragua and Syria as the only nations to decline to join. Nicaragua declined inclusion to the agreement on the grounds that the agreement doesn’t do enough to protect the environment (which I agree with), and Syria has been embattled in a  civil war for the better part of a decade. The U.S. claimed mainly economic and monetary reasons for the departure.

No matter what your opinion on climate change is, no one can deny that human civilization as a whole is terrible for the environment. But, can the Paris Agreement actually help improve the situation, or is it simply a symbolic measure?

For starters, the Paris Agreement lacks enforceable consequences for countries who exceed their self imposed limits for emissions. Or in other words, the agreement doesn’t possess the ability to actually require countries to reduce emissions, and therefore, it requires countries to voluntarily hold themselves accountable for the agreement requirements. While some countries certainly will hold themselves to the stipulations in the agreement, many will likely follow the natural path of human intuition and become lax when compliance is too burdensome and/or costly.  Ultimately, an agreement without any enforcement ability is not going to achieve the long term goal of combating climate change.

In addition to the self-monitoring, each country also gets to select its own goals. Obviously, this scenario is ripe for underwhelming results as some countries have already been accused of setting “easy” emission reduction goals. For example, Yemen’s unconditional goal is a 1% reduction in emissions by 2030. Their conditional goal, which is contingent upon receiving money from other countries, is to reduce emissions by a further 13%.

Overall, the intent of the Paris Agreement is certainly headed in the right direction, but there should be serious skepticism surrounding the belief that an agreement with voluntary self created goals and no legal consequences can actually solve the highly challenging crisis of climate change.

Was leaving the Paris Agreement the correct decision for the U.S? In our opinion – yes, the government is no longer required to pay billions of dollars to the Green Climate Fund, and the plan to reduce emissions is still equally as enforceable now as it was under the Paris Agreement.

Did the U.S. leave the agreement in the proper manner? Absolutely not.  The departure certainly could have been handled in a more diplomatic manner, and the reasons given for the departure left a bad taste in the mouths of many. 

Ultimately, the decision to leave the Paris Agreement seems to have been the correct decision made for the wrong reasons.  And as our view here tends to be more moderate, hence the name, it’s hard to see why a liberal or conservative would show adamant support for the Paris Agreement.  The agreement requires billions of dollars to be paid to other countries, which typically annoys conservatives, while simultaneously taking a weak approach (no legal consequences for violating self imposed emissions goals) to protecting the environment, which typically annoys liberals.   To truly be serious about saving the environment, an agreement with independently established goals and legal consequences for countries not meeting said goals needs to be implemented. Unfortunately, the Paris Agreement falls short in both instances. Additionally, the first true measure of the Paris Agreement’s effectiveness won’t be fully developed until roughly 2030, and by that time, it may be too late to implement a new plan if the Paris Agreement fails.

{Via The Guardian}

Title Image “smokestack” by Steve Nelson is licensed under CC BY 2.0