Is the United States in the Paris Climate Agreement?
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On President Biden’s first day in office in January of 2021, the United States rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement. This agreement is meant to spur individual nations to collectively work to keep temperatures down around the globe. For most nations, this means reducing their reliance on fossil fuels and exploring alternative energy.
The Paris Climate Agreement has been a source of division in the United States for years. In general, Democrats support joining the agreement, while Republicans firmly oppose this action. Here’s more on what the Paris Climate Agreement means for the United States and whether Americans should support it.
History Reflects Political Division
In 2015, governments from around the world met in Paris to discuss what action they could take to reduce climate change together. Remarkably, 187 different countries developed a national plan for environmental action and joined the Paris Climate Agreement. These countries were required to monitor their progress and review their plan every five years.
In 2016, America joined the Paris Agreement under the leadership of President Obama. The United States brought important funding to the project and promised $3 million to the Green Climate Fund by 2020. However, America fell far short of this goal and only contributed $1 million to this environmental fund by 2022.
Republican President Trump was elected in 2016 right as the Paris Agreement was going into effect. He opposed joining the agreement because he believed it would be bad for the American economy. Instead of adopting a globalist mindset, Trump wanted to invest money back into the United States directly. Under his administration, America left the Agreement in 2020.
However, Democratic President Biden’s first decision as President in January 2021 was to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement. Biden believed that shifting to renewable energy would create more jobs and prepare America for a resilient future. The back and forth between these presidents reflects the political division in the United States.
What Do American Citizens Think?
According to a 2022 Pew Research survey, 49% of Americans support President Biden’s environmental policies. However, a strikingly similar 47% strongly dislike the direction he’s taking the country when it comes to environmental issues. Unsurprisingly, these percentages follow party lines closely.
The same survey noted that 79% of Democrats support Biden’s climate decisions, while 82% of Republicans and independents are opposed to what he’s doing. These percentages reflect the different priorities of each political party. Democrats traditionally support environmental regulation, while Republicans are often concerned about how regulations restrict industry.
The Pew survey did reveal that Americans agree on several environmental issues. For example, 90% of Americans believe the country should plant more trees as a way to reduce carbon in the atmosphere. In addition, 79% believe that tax credits should be used to incentivize innovation in carbon capture and storage.
These results show that Americans are concerned about climate change – they just can’t agree on the best way to respond. Unfortunately, deep political division makes it difficult to succeed with any agreed-on plan. Why is it so hard for Americans to reach a consensus on the Paris Climate Agreement?
Reasons to Oppose Joining
As expressed by former President Trump, many Republicans are concerned about the impact of the Paris Agreement on the U.S. economy. They believe that moving away from fossil fuels will result in job loss and expenses that will negatively affect millions of Americans.
Many Americans are also alarmed by the monetary commitment the U.S. made to the Green Climate Fund during President Obama’s administration. As of early 2022, the United States is more than $30 million in debt. The only way to reduce this debt is by increasing taxes or reducing national spending.
Imagine an individual who’s in debt and wants to get their finances back on track. Most financial advisors would suggest working to pay off debt before they improve their lifestyle. Many Republicans feel that sending money to developing countries shouldn’t come before paying off the national debt and improving America’s infrastructure.
Some Americans are also concerned about the legal implications of the Paris Climate Agreement. International law can be fuzzy territory. Although many countries view the agreement as simply an accountability measure, others are taking it much more seriously. Republicans worry that joining the agreement could allow other countries to have too much say in American law.
Reasons to Support Joining
On the other hand, many Americans feel a sense of urgency about climate change. The whole reason the Paris Climate Agreement happened in the first place is because scientists were predicting catastrophic events if something didn’t change quickly. People realized that collaboration was necessary to prevent global temperatures from rising further.
Many Democrats feel that environmental protection should be the country’s priority, even if it’s initially difficult for the economy. Before he was elected, President Biden predicted that shifting from fossil fuels to clean energy would create more American jobs over time. However painful the transition may be, Democrats believe that it’s worth the cost.
Leaders of the Paris Climate Agreement have admitted that if every country fully met its goals, the global temperature would only reduce by a fraction of what is needed. However, doing something is much better than doing nothing. Environmental leaders believe supporting the Paris Climate Agreement is the first step toward saving the planet.
Supporters of the Paris Climate Agreement also point out that partnering with other countries is an investment in the health of future generations. Whether or not America supports the Paris Agreement, American children will have to live in the world that current choices and industries are creating.
America’s Future With the Paris Agreement
Judging from the historical pattern, America will likely continue to flip-flop in its commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement. When Republicans gain control of the government, the United States will pull out so it can redirect its money elsewhere. However, the U.S. will join up again as soon as Democrats run the government.
Although statistics show that Americans are conflicted about the Paris Climate Agreement, the same surveys also reveal the country’s concern over climate change. It’s a shame that political division is impeding the contribution America could make to planetary health – whether through international collaboration or autonomous legislation.
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About the author
Rachel serves as the Assistant Editor of Environment.co. A true foodie and activist at heart, she loves covering topics ranging from veganism to off grid living.