On 26 and 27 May 2017, Italy will host the meeting of the G7 leaders. The G7 summit is a forum that plays an important role in shaping global responses to global challenges and complements the global economic coordination carried out by the G20. It brings together leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and the EU. This summit follows the G7 Summit in Japan in 2016 and will focus on the global economy, foreign policy, security of citizens, and environmental sustainability.
World leaders expect President Donald Trump to announce this week whether the U.S. will remain in the landmark Paris climate accord as they gather for the summit. A U.S. State Department spokeswoman has not said when Trump would announce his decision. However, a White House spokesman had previously said the president would make his choice after meeting with G-7 leaders.
THE PARIS AGREEMENT
A U.N. panel of climate scientists found that it is at least 95 percent probable that man-made greenhouse gas emissions — especially burning fossil fuels — are the main cause of climate change since 1950. In each of the past three years, global average temperatures have hit record highs, and the continued warming of the planet is projected to cause worsening droughts, sea level rises, floods, heatwaves and extinctions of wildlife.
The Paris Agreement’s central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The Paris Agreement entered into force on 4 November 2016. To date, 153 parties have ratified the Agreement.
THE US POSITION
On the campaign trail, President Trump repeatedly promised to “cancel the Paris Climate Agreement and stop all payments of US tax dollars to UN global warming programs.” President Trump had called global warming a “hoax,” a “con,” and “a concept created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.” Although recently President Trump has stated that he “has an open mind” on the Paris Agreement, there is a fierce debate within his administration on whether to withdraw.
Environmental groups have said that withdrawing from the global accord would have significant consequences. As the richest nation and the second-largest polluter, U.S. efforts are central to keeping climate change from hitting an irreversible tipping point, unleashing catastrophic floods, droughts and storms, according to researchers.
In its most recent Quadrennial Defense Review in 2014, the Pentagon predicted that climate change will increase sea levels, temperature and severe weather patterns, and concluded that “the pressures caused by climate change” would be “threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions — conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.”
Pressure has also come from a broad coalition of corporate leaders and business groups, including DuPont, Hewlett-Packard, Apple, BP, General Mills, Google, PG&E, The Hartford, GE, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, Cargill, General Motors, Bank of America, Intel, American Express, AT&T, Monsanto, Procter & Gamble, Nike, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Walmart and NRG Energy, and 280 investors representing more than $17 trillion in assets who released a statement Monday saying climate change must be an “urgent priority” for all G-20 nations. Executives have warned that Trump would put U.S. companies at a disadvantage if he pulled out of the pact.
The Paris Agreement is also popular with the majority of American voters. In a nationally representative survey conducted last November after the election, The Associated Press found that seven in 10 registered voters say the U.S. should participate in the Paris climate agreement. Only 13 percent say the U.S. should not.
Trade analysts have noted that the risks of withdrawing from the Paris would also include the possibility of trade reprisals. Countries that tax emissions of carbon dioxide pollution could place a carbon tariff on imports of American-made goods. The EU currently charges polluters fees for carbon emissions, while China, Mexico and Canada are in the process of carrying out such programs.
There are still some who advocate for the US to withdraw from the Paris agreement. They argue that the Paris Agreement is based on a fundamental misconception of climate history and science. The key misconception is that all of the warming since the Industrial Revolution — 0.9 degrees Celsius — is a result of human activity, when in reality, it might be naturally caused. If that is the reason, the Paris agreement will have no effect on global warming.
Others argue that the Agreement does not go far enough in requiring countries (especially China and India) to lower emissions, and that in aggregate, the promised emissions reductions will barely affect anticipated warming. MIT’s Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change calculates the improvement by century’s end to be only 0.2 degrees Celsius. Comparing projected emissions to the baseline established by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change back in 2000 shows no improvement at all.
The mining industry in the US is also fiercely opposed to the Paris Agreement. The National Mining Association’s board of directors voted Tuesday to endorse a withdrawal from the climate agreement.
It is up to the current administration and Congress to decide whether to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. There are many supporters and as many detractors. The reality is that the true effect that the provisions of the Agreement will have on global warming remains to be seen. What is certain is that the consequences of whatever decision the administration makes, will be long lasting for the United States as a nation, and for the planet. The seriousness of the current situation in regards to global warning cannot be overstated, and it is vital that we demand and that our government gives the appropriate thought and consideration to such an important decision.