As Trump Weighs US Involvement In Climate Accord, Corporations Turn Up The Heat

by | May 8, 2017

Members of the Trump administration are meeting tomorrow to discuss the global climate treaty accord and whether the United States should remain involved. Governments around the world are applying both overt and covert pressures on the White House for it to keep the commitments made by the Obama administration.

Corporate America is generally supportive. Such companies as Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft have responded to positively to the climate pact, saying that carbon reduction strategies would boost investment in renewable energy while beefing up American competitiveness, innovation and job growth. 

And just after Trump was elected, 365 companies ranging from Nike to Levi Strauss to General Electric sent the president a letter emphasizing their commitment to reducing heat-trapping emissions. As for GE, it is in the business of making electric power generators — much of which is wind and solar as well as natural gas, which is replacing coal-fired power.

“We are for staying in the treaty. I think global engagement is a good thing,” GE chairman Jeff Immelt told students at Georgetown University, as reported by the BBC. “As a company, we think that climate change is real.”

The global climate pact, reached in Paris in December 2015 and now signed by nearly 200 countries, would try and keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels. The European Union, Canada and China are key champions of the agreement, along with the low-lying island nations in Pacific and countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

But Trump has cast doubt on the validity of the science used to arrive at the conclusion that humans are mostly at fault for heat-trapping carbon emissions and changing temperatures. His EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, said recently that is unknown if humans are the key reason. Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists have found that climate change is mostly attributed to carbon emissions from autos, factories and power plants.

In late March, for example, Trump signed executive orders to try and weaken carbon and methane emissions, as well as one to allow for more coal production on federally owned lands. The president has also referred to climate change as a “hoax” perpetrated by the Chinese to neuter the U.S. manufacturing sector. The president will make his decision on whether to stay in the pact by May 15.

Interestingly, Trump’s hesitancy comes at a time when this country has witnessed consistent carbon reductions over the last decade and a 1.6% fall between 2015 and 2016, reports Climate Central. Carbon emissions tied to power plants, meantime, have fallen by 5% for the last two years — largely a function of switching from coal to natural gas and renewables. Altogether, carbon releases are 24% less than they were in 2005.

“Global investors are eager to open their wallets to a low-carbon future, but it won’t happen without clear, stable policy signals from countries worldwide – in particular, the US government whose waffling on the Paris Climate Agreement is hugely troubling,” said Mindy Lubber, CEO and President of the sustainability non-profit organization Ceres.

A study performed by the United Nations Development Program said that if the goals of the Paris accord are achieved, job growth would escalate and climate risks could be averted. The key finding: economic growth would be 10%, or $12 trillion greater by 2030.

But reaching the goals set under the December 2015 agreement will be nearly impossible without the participation of the United States, It would, in fact, necessitate that the rest of the global community make greater sacrifices. And at least country — Australia —- has contemplated aloud what it would mean to the agreement if the United States withdraws. For now, Australia is committed.

President Trump, of course, has expressed his unconditional support for the coal sector and has vowed to eliminate or reduce the regulations the industry faces. If coal is going to advance in the developed world, integrated coal gasification along with carbon capture and sequestration would be the vehicles to facilitate that. And that is something Trump could try and champion on the global stage — and within the confines of a platform like the global climate accord.

It’s imperative that businesses take an active role in meeting the goals set out by the Paris Climate Agreement,” said Anna Walker, Senior Director of Global Policy and Advocacy at Levi Strauss & Co. “It will be critical that we work together to ensure the U.S. maintains its climate leadership, ultimately ensuring our nation’s long-term economic prosperity.”

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