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Reports indicate U.S. may pull out of The Paris Agreement

With much on the line as it relates to the United States’ role in lowering global carbon emissions, various media reports coming out today are indicating that the U.S. is pulling out of The Paris Agreement… By Jeff Berman

With much on the line as it relates to the United States’ role in lowering global carbon emissions, various media reports coming out today are indicating that the U.S. is pulling out of The Paris Agreement by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC).

As previously reported, The Paris Agreement by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) requires each of the 195 participating countries to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

To reach these ambitious goals, appropriate financial flows, a new technology framework and an enhanced capacity building framework will be put in place, thus supporting action by developing countries and the most vulnerable countries, in line with their own national objectives as well. “The nonbinding agreement also provides for enhanced transparency of action and support through a more robust transparency framework,” the UNFCCC added.

While the White House has yet to issue an official statement on leaving the agreement, an Associated Press report stated that there may be “caveats in the language announcing a withdrawal, leaving open the possibility that his decision isn’t final,” adding that “exiting the deal would be certain to anger allies that spent years negotiating the accord to reduce carbon emissions.”

The fact that it appears the U.S. may be leaving the agreement does not come as a surprise, with Trump having stated on the campaign trail last year that it was a “bad deal for the U.S.” while saying clean air and crystal clear water are important. 

In recent days, political camps have made their respective cases for staying in, or exiting, the agreement.

A group of more than 20 Senate Republicans penned a letter to President Trump on May 25 opposing the agreement, saying that it runs counter to the Administration’s Executive Order, “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth,” which called for the Environmental Protection Agency to unwind former President Obama’s Clean Power Plan regulations.

The letter added that a key risk to fulfilling that objective is the U.S. remaining in the agreement, and it said that due to “existing provisions within the Clean Air Act and others embedded in the Paris Agreement, remaining in it would subject the United States to significant litigation risk that could upend your Administration’s ability to fulfill its goal of rescinding the Clean Power Plan. Accordingly, we strongly encourage you to make a clean break from the Paris Agreement.”

The letter concluded by noting that some Administration officials want to remain in the agreement to keep a seat at the table and ensure the U.S. will continue to have a voice in future discussions, emphasizing that a clean exit from the agreement would not take this away, citing the Senate’s consent to the UNFCCC in 1992 (which provided a permanent seat at the table for the U.S. to engage with other countries annually at the Conferences of Parties.

Coming from a different point of view, Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Susan Collins (R-Me.) wrote a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson expressing their support for U.S. climate diplomacy and encouraging the State Department to continue its engagement on this important matter.

To further illustrate their point, they noted that nearly every country has signed the Paris Agreement, with 65% of those having officially joined it and are committed to taking action.

“Even if the U.S. opts out, the rest of the world will proceed with mitigation strategies without us and the decisions they make will affect us, regardless of our absence,” the letter said. “This necessitates our keeping a seat at the table to ensure that these decisions benefit the U.S. as well as the rest of the world.”

Even though it appears the U.S. may soon be exiting the agreement, it is far from certain that the move will garner the support of large U.S.-based corporations.

A May 10 letter to the President from 30 U.S.-based CEOs, including large shippers like Cargill, Johnson & Johnson, Unilver, and Tesla, expressed their support for the U.S. remaining in the agreement.

“As CEOs of large American companies, or with significant operations in the United States, we are concerned about keeping the doors open for the global flow of American manufactured goods and products at this critical time when our Manufacturing sector is starting to grow from our competitive energy advantage,” the letter stated. “Based on our experience doing business all over the world, we believe there is strong potential for negative trade implications if the United States exits from the Paris Agreement. Our business interests are best served by a stable and practical framework facilitating an effective and balanced response to reducing global GHG emissions. The Paris Agreement gives us that flexible framework to manage climate change.”

Kevin Smith, president of Sustainable Supply Chain Consulting and former head of supply chain for CVS Caremark, said that the end result of the U.S. potentially leaving the agreement might not be as significant as some maintain. 

“I don't think the Paris Agreement had much meat to it,” he said. “I am not a scientist, but I suspect that the agreement was more about gathering funds for ‘research’ and government propaganda campaigns than actionable reductions in carbon, etc. Real progress will be made in reducing greenhouse gasses when governments allow and encourage companies to pursue reduction programs that focus on profitable, or at least, not coffer draining projects. If companies can do things that are good for the environment while still delivering value to stakeholders, they will do it. Punishing companies for what a global committee feels is causing climate change while offering no viable options is a dead end street.”

Taking a different view, Jason Mathers, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) Senior Manager, Supply Chain Logistics, recently told LM his organization sees the agreement as being incredibly important, because it has ambition, is global in scope and provides a very broad framework.

About the author
Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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