Commentary: Leaving the Paris pact puts the US at a disadvantage

In 2017, when President Trump announced his intention to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement, it was the wrong move. Nearly three years later, as the administration finalizes that ill-conceived choice, it remains the wrong move for our nation and our planet.

With over 180 signatories, and a framework that includes specific emissions reductions targets and systems by which to hold nations accountable for their commitments, the Paris Agreement is the most significant global signal that the world recognizes the urgency and scope of the climate crisis. The world is rapidly deploying more renewable and clean energy. Instead of placing American innovation at the vanguard of this transition, this administration has chosen to put United States behind the rest of the world in the race to develop and deploy new carbon-free technologies.

The reason for urgency is clear. With each new report, from both international and U.S. agencies, it is becoming increasingly clear that the threats posed from climate impacts are growing in both number and size.

Allison Vogt

Entire towns in Alaska are being relocated. Streets in Miami are flooding, even during sunny days. Shellfish farmers are seeing harvests decimated by storms, ocean acidification and increased runoff.

As the lowest lying state in the nation, Delaware is on the front lines. These impacts include more frequent and intense flooding and erosion along our rivers and coastal communities. Sea level rise at Bowers Beach, along Delaware’s Bayshore, is climbing at a faster rate than anywhere else along the Atlantic Coast. Wilmington lies at the confluence of two tidal rivers and is vulnerable to flooding along the Brandywine and Christina Rivers. Climate impacts are not something that happens to other people in other places. They are happening here and now.

Back in 2017, despite the disappointment over the announcement to withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, many stepped up even as the administration stepped back. Electric power companies are investing in renewable energy and increasingly making net-zero carbon commitments. Leaders from both sides of the aisle as well as CEOs of major corporations are vocally supporting a price on carbon.

Sen. Chris Coons recently announced that he and Sen. Mike Braun, a Republican from Indiana, have launched the new Senate Climate Solutions Caucus that will seek bipartisan solutions to address challenges related to energy policy and climate change.

The unmistakable drumbeat calling for climate action grows louder and more persistent, despite this administration’s attempt to turn a deaf ear to it. The opportunities presented by the global transition that is already underway are substantial. The danger has never been that the United States’ departure from the Paris Agreement would stop countries and companies from acting and innovating to secure a low-carbon future, but that they would in fact do so, and leave the United States behind. That doesn’t sound like a very good deal for the future of our economy, our communities or our planet.

The good news is that solutions already exist that can help address climate threats while contributing to healthy lands and waters, safer communities and strong economies. Countries, companies, and communities must work together to secure a bright future for our planet.

Allison Vogt is the interim director for The Nature Conservancy in Delaware. The Nature Conservancy is the world’s largest conservation organization, working in 50 states and 74 countries, dedicated to “conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends.”

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