At the U.N. Climate Talks at COP22 in November 2016, U.S. and global youth gathered after Trump’s win and spoke about what his presidency would mean for global climate justice. (John Englart/Creative Commons)
In late 2015, the world came together in a historic moment of union to discuss the impending dangers of climate change, but America’s recent withdrawal has frayed this noble purpose.
President Trump withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement because he did not believe it was fair that it put most of the blame on the United States for global climate change. Despite the fact that the United States is the second biggest contributor to global climate change, President Trump explained that he cannot support a deal that punished the U.S. but does not pose any punishments for the world’s greatest polluters.
Let us all remember that whether China is the first or the last on the list of polluters, the U.S. has the means and resources to make a huge impact and an enormous influence, if not more. Instead, President Trump cries victim and masks his reality of wanting to live in the now, “put Americans first” and allocate fiscal resources to other programs and treaties that put the United States on the top and... the military.
The best part about the accord was that it forced countries like the United States and other wealthy nations to help “developing countries,” but really the Global South, to build renewable energy sources for their countries that suffer the biggest burden in the first place.
Certainly climate change is not a priority for the current administration but that does not mean it isn’t a priority for humanity. The hottest year ever recorded was 2015. Then 2016 stole that record. So. Are we going to continue to abide by the status quo, or are we going to strive to make systemic change and also become conscious citizens.
Originally the U.S. agreed to contribute $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund, and under the Obama administration, $1 billion had been transferred. The White House could easily have stayed in the Paris Accord, even as it opted not to pay into the climate fund or impose emission cuts. Why did he do it then? To make a point? To urge and force people to act on their own part for the next four years? To make local and individual impacts instead of always relying on someone else to do it? That’s the positive way to look at it at least, and the wise way to examine it.
I do hope his decision galvanizes people and pushes them to engage in their own sustainable acts so the planet doesn't melt over but also to finally acknowledge and take responsibility — the same way it is inspiring me to continue my efforts to save the planet and its people.
Now, more than ever, it is imperative that we immerse ourselves into the experiences that are being felt all over the planet. We need to listen to the stories of the refugees of climate change, the global citizens whose environments are shifting in sudden and dangerous ways.
Although it seems as if President Trump is shying away from American leadership, on second thought, his shortsighted decision is inspiring citizens to act. Perhaps surprisingly, leaving the Paris Accord isn’t stalling breakthrough innovations to reach sustainability but, instead, advancing efforts.
All around the country, companies, mayors, governors and even college presidents are declaring to solemnly act on the climate pledge to continue to support climate action. Ideally we want to go beyond the Paris Agreement’s plea, but it does represent a major step in the right direction. India and China are ahead of schedule in meeting the Paris commitments. Can the United States, along with other wealthy nations also serve as pacesetters — or at least followers — in the most crucial battle of our age?