Kofi Annan, Christiana Figueres: The U.S. Will Lose Power

4 minute read

Annan served as the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001. Figueres was Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 2010–2016 and is the convener of Mission 2020

On Thursday, President Trump announced his intention for the United States to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, the historic global climate pact accepted and signed by 195 countries that aims to keep global temperature rise “well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.”

For the U.S. to abandon the deal that it has worked so closely with so many to achieve, will have grave diplomatic consequences. The Paris Agreement, which was ratified with unprecedented speed, is one of the world’s greatest successes of multilateral diplomacy, a shining example of how nations can work together to combat an existential global threat. It will continue to be the world’s best chance to fend off global insecurity.

The impacts of President Trump’s retreat from international cooperation are already clear, as signaled by the remarkable frustration felt by world leaders at the G7 meetings in Italy last month, where the G6 nations all reaffirmed their commitments to the Paris Agreement and singled out the U.S. for failing to do so. The United States relies on venues like the G7, the G20, and NATO more than President Trump is currently prepared to acknowledge, and all of these alliances are deeply engaged on climate change. By walking away from Paris, the United States will lose considerable power in these fora, and throughout international relations, as the credibility and reliability of the United States is called into question.

The world’s largest historical emitter of greenhouse gases is now retreating further towards diplomatic isolation on this issue. Only two other countries—Syria and Nicaragua—have declined to sign onto the deal, so the U.S. will stand alone as a developed nation outside of the deal. The leaders of China and the European Union have immediately signed a joint statement to reconfirm their commitment to the Paris Agreement. Other nations are also standing firm and will reap the diplomatic benefits that come with such leadership.

Beyond the diplomatic tensions, American citizens will be more exposed to the economic, health, and security risks that plague climate laggards. That’s why business leaders, state governors, investors and mayors of America’s biggest cities are all publicly pledging meaningful climate action to fulfill the nation’s Paris commitments, despite the White House’s actions. More than 760 American businesses, including large employers like Ebay, Gap, General Mills, Nike and Intel have all pledged “to do our part…to realize the Paris Agreement’s commitment.” More recently, dozens of CEOs from Fortune 500 companies asked President Trump to stay committed to Paris in the name of technological innovation, job creation, and economic prosperity.

Renewable energy industries already employ more than three-quarter of a million Americans. In fact, jobs in solar and wind are growing at a rate 12 times faster than the rest of the U.S. economy and according to the Department of Energy, solar in the US now employs more than oil, coal and gas combined. Another 2.2 million Americans work in the design, manufacturing, or installation of energy efficiency products and services.

These industries have all been given a boost by the Paris Agreement and this is one major reason that a full 71% of Americans say that the U.S. should continue to participate in the deal, including 57% of Republican voters.

The claim that no other countries are taking action to reduce emissions and that the Paris Agreement only impacts the U.S. is simply not true. The renewable revolution is underway and low-carbon growth is helping to lift the poor out of poverty and driving prosperity throughout the world, including in China and India. In our native continents of Africa and Latin America, we see nations and communities striving to provide power to the millions that currently lack access to electricity, and aspiring to do so with clean energy.

Regardless of President Trump’s announcement and the bizarre notion of a renegotiation — something which is already being rejected by other countries — the U.S. won’t be able to formally submit its notification to withdraw until November 5, 2019. President Trump will have time to listen to the seven in ten Americans who want the United States to remain in Paris.

The United States risks losing any mantle of leadership and moral authority on climate change, but only if held accountable. The G6 sent a strong message last week, and next month G19 leaders can show the Trump administration directly how this Paris retreat will hurt American interests abroad. World leaders must stand united and strong in the face of dangerous climate policy choices from one member that will have long-term negative repercussions for everyone.

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