Presidential declarations or policies can cause backlash within the country, as was the case when President Trump announced in June of 2017 that the United States was going to leave the Paris Climate Agreement. Initially, there was outrage among citizens and interests groups stating that this was not the right choice for the American people or the world. Coincidentally, I wrote an article for Snoqap Financial titled “Can Trump Stand in the Way of the Paris Climate Agreement?” that looked at the outcries and initiatives in the direct aftermath and wake of this decision. Seven months later, we saw the creation and growth of another initiative that has rallied a great deal of support among smaller groups and businesses in an attempt to declare that American organizations and people are still very much interested in being a part of the Paris Climate Agreement, despite the decision of the current administration. “We are Still In” is an effort coordinated by many individuals and groups from around the country; singular investors, businesses, church groups, colleges, and local governments making it known they still want to be part of the Paris Climate Agreement and intend to follow its guidelines. “We are Still In” is working in collaboration with “America’s Pledge,” which is an initiative organized by the former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and California Governor Jerry Brown (About | We Are Still In). Michael Bloomberg represented both “America’s Pledge” and “We Are Still In” at the 2017 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 23) in Germany. In addition, “We are Still In” put up a pavilion in front of the COP 23 venue to show support and dedication to the cause.
However, this was not the only United States representation at the conference; David Banks, President Trump’s advisor on energy and the environment, was present at the COP 23 advocating for something drastically different. He proposed that an increase in coal, gas, and oil was inevitable and suggested that the United States intends to help other countries have more coal and natural gas. In addition, he warned other countries not to get in the way of these efforts to stimulate the dependence on fossil fuels for the developing countries .
Every country in the world, except the United States, has signed the Paris Climate Agreement and recognizes that the reliance on fossil fuels is not healthy or sustainable in the long run, even if they have not gotten off them entirely. Bloomberg and signatories of the “We are Still In” campaign both disagreed with Banks; Michael Bloomberg said that “promoting coal at a climate summit is like promoting tobacco at a cancer summit” (Leahy). However, the federal government of the United States is not only going against the Paris Climate Agreement but is encouraging other countries to follow the lead. It not only wants the United States to remain dependent on fossil fuels but start the next generation of dependence in order to keep the fossil fuel industry in the conversation. The fossil fuel industry contributed 94 million dollars in 2017 to lobbying efforts. The highest recipient of those funds was Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan. (Lobbying Spending Database Oil & Gas, 2017 | OpenSecrets)
It is embarrassing that the United States is so publicly disagreeing with itself especially at a world event like the United Nations Climate Change Conference. Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel, Paolo Gentiloni, and many European leaders put together a joint statement saying that the Paris Climate Agreement is to stand despite the United States leaving. Furthermore, they also explained that a single party cannot re-negotiate the agreement to only their specified terms (Smith-Spark). The United States cannot be taken seriously if it does not know what it wants its own policies to be or if its policies do not agree with its peoples. Organizations like “We Are Still In” exist for a reason because a majority of the American public believes in climate change and wants to take serious action to fight against it. It is in the government’s best interest to fight climate change. The United States spent the most money it's ever spent on severe weather events this year (Lowrey). It also does not deserve to be a world power that guides other countries, for example with the proposed coal plan, if it has such profound domestic disagreements. For the past century, the United States has been invested in foreign affairs and providing innovative solutions for the world’s problems. To turn its back on the world now is unimaginable. The government needs to reevaluate the policy of leaving the Paris Climate Agreement if there were enough citizens all throughout the country who were dissatisfied with this decision enough to organize an initiative against it.
Democracies are only able to function properly when the government is accountable to its people and cannot remain one sided. It is true that a sector of the American public does not believe in climate change but the government cannot represent only those beliefs. It shows promise for the institution that those people are able to speak out with initiatives like the “We Are Still In” movement. The passion to honor and uphold the Paris Climate Agreement is there and something that the current administration should be watching very closely. It will be interesting to see how these initiatives like “We Are Still In” and others like it develop in the coming times and if the current administration takes notice.
About | We Are Still In. https://www.wearestillin.com/about. Accessed 10 Jan. 2018.
Leahy, Stephen. “Half of U.S. Spending Power Behind Paris Climate Agreement.” National Geographic, 15 Nov. 2017.
Lobbying Spending Database Oil & Gas, 2017 | OpenSecrets. https://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/indusclient.php?id=E01. Accessed 19 Jan. 2018.
Lowrey, Annie. “The Most Expensive Weather Year Ever.” The Atlantic, Dec. 2017. The Atlantic, https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/12/expensive-weather-storms/548579/.
Smith-Spark, Laura. “World Leaders Condemn US Decision to Quit Climate Deal.” CNN, 3 June 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/02/world/us-climate-world-reacts/index.html.