US politics and Climate shift
By Mahnoor Abdullah
Edited by Maleha Afzal
President Obama towards the end of his time in the White House took some tangible steps to finally tackle Climate Change. The 2015 Paris Accord was one of them. The Unites States of America, under the leadership of President Donald Trump withdrew from the Accord on June 1st, 2017. However, the exit is not as simple as it sounds. Article 28 of the Agreement stipulates that a binding country cannot withdraw before three years of its joining date (Paris Agreement, 2015). For the USA the date was prescribed as November 4, 2016. A formal intention to withdraw submitted on November 4,2019 had to take 12 months to process at the earliest which marks November 4,2020 as the date; one day after the 2020 Presidential Election.
The 2010 budget introduced the Cap and Trade system to limit emissions of greenhouse gases. Under the act Greenhouse Gas emissions credits were auctioned off which generated an additional $78 billion federal revenue. In 2015, Obama introduced the Clean Power Plan to limit carbon pollution by power plants (Serfaty, 2015).
Figure 1Trends in U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions, 1990–2017
The US CO2 emissions makeup around 14% (Each Country’s Share of CO2 Emissions, 2020) of the global emissions, peaking in 2007 and consequently experiencing a drop in 2017 after which they increased again by 2.5% in 2018 due to a dramatic rise in mining activities. Where the Congress is responsible for authorizing laws at national level, many states, cities and regional organizations across the country have reduced their emissions by investing in renewable energy generation, auctioning agricultural carbon sequestration credits, and encouraging efficient energy use.The New York state Energy plan that aims to build a new network connecting the central grid with clean and locally produced energy plants is one such example (New York State Energy Plan, 2015). After the US exit from Paris Accord, governors of 24 states formed the United States Climate Alliance to continue to advance in accordance with objectives of the agreement at a state level.
While the policies may seem flimsy on paper, all talk no work as President Trump puts it, it’s important to keep those 24 states and thousands of other people who are actively trying to reduce their carbon footprint as a beacon of hope.
Each Country’s Share of CO2 Emissions. (2020, May 11). Retrieved from Union of Concerned Scientists : https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/each-countrys-share-co2-emissions
New York State Energy Plan. (2015). Retrieved from NYSERDA: https://www.nyserda.ny.gov/Researchers-and-Policymakers/New-York-State-Energy-Plan
Paris Agreement. (2015, November). Retrieved from UNFCCC: https://unfccc.int/files/meetings/paris_nov_2015/application/pdf/paris_agreement_english_.pdf
Serfaty, A. M. (2015, August 3). Obama unveils a major climate change proposal. Retrieved from CNN: https://edition.cnn.com/2015/08/02/politics/obama-climate-change-plan/