How the Paris Climate Accord Works
Jun 26, 2017
Many of you may be familiar with this example. Your church needs a new roof. The trustees get bids from contractors and when they see them think they have misplaced the decimal point.
So to raise the needed money, a fundraising drive begins soliciting pledges from members. This time-honored process uses peer pressure to encourage voluntary contributions. This familiar effort is reasonably close to how the Paris Climate Accord works, but not widely known, so when President Trump began the process of withdrawing the United States from the Paris Accord, the confusion about what this meant was widespread.
The agreement was nations voluntarily decide how much they will cut their carbon emissions and how fast. Whether the agreement is a good idea or not, it helps to know what happens now. Just like that pledge to contribute to the roof, there is nothing for the US to renegotiate with anybody.
We just don't join in.
The pact is largely symbolic, but such symbolic agreements provide a framework to develop further cooperation between nations on related issues.
Withdrawal will not immediately change any emission regulations here in the US or abroad. What it does do is place the US, Syria, and Nicaragua apart from the rest of the world as we deal with climate change. In fact, it is this symbolic defense of our sovereignty that many feel is important.
Already we are seeing signs of climate leadership from Europe and Asia in response, and just like the big contributors to the new roof, they will gain some status while the US will be viewed as less than a team player.
However, foreign policy experts have begun to consider if a climate agreement without the US might be better than a climate agreement that includes an uncooperative US. Taking back our pledge is unwise in my opinion, but it may not be as crippling to the Paris Accord as first thought.
The rest of the world could move on without us.
What I'm watching, however, is if our policy of America First ends up meaning America Alone.