The Uncertain Future of the Paris Agreement
In his campaign, then candidate Trump threatened to “cancel” the Paris Agreement, in which the United States formally committed to reducing GHG emissions 26-28% by 2025. It seems the new administration is ready to make good on its word. On Thursday, April 13, 2017, Scott Pruitt, U.S. EPA Administrator, stated the U.S. should “exit” the agreement and White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, announced to expect official word regarding the administration’s plans by the end of May.
If the administration chooses to withdraw from the agreement, the earliest the U.S. can withdraw is 2020 due to a combination of UN regulations and specific stipulations set forth within the Paris agreement. It would also lead the U.S. to give up its leadership role on the issue and forfeit a “seat at the table,” something Secretary of State Rex Tillerson believes is important for the U.S. to have. Many expect the administration to lower the targets agreed to by the Obama Administration in the Paris agreement to make it easier to achieve and easier on businesses.
However, while the US searches for its footing on the carbon issue, recent support for the Paris Agreement has come from even the most unlikely places. ExxonMobil wrote a letter to the White House in March and coal companies, CloudPeak Energy, ArchCoal and Peabody said they wouldn’t protest if the U.S. remains in the agreement. Moreover, the private sector has made its commitment to sustainability known through their actions, acknowledging that it makes good business sense to be good stewards of the natural resources we all share. Companies such as Apple, Walmart and others are laying out ambitious plans to reduce their footprint and thus acting on these issues. In 2015, 13 of the largest companies from across the American Economy, signed the American Business Act on Climate Pledge, which champions the Paris Agreement.
Regardless of what the administration chooses to do, over 130 countries have signed or ratified the Paris Agreement. And if the trend towards globalization continues and companies wish to compete internationally, manufacturers need to recognize climate change and focus on increasing energy efficiency and reducing emissions. If they cannot look to the administration to participate in agreements and set forth these standards, they can look to the states and groups like SASB to continue the fight and provide guidance.
It seems the train has left the station and the question remains, will the U.S. keeps its seat or exit the car.