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The Trump Administration should Keep the US in the Paris Climate Accord

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stephen-Harper.jpegBy Stephen Harper, Global Director, Environment and Energy Policy at Intel

“Reports abound that President Trump will soon announce a decision re whether the United States will remain with the Paris Climate Accord, an international agreement we committed to in December 2015.  The Paris Accord  was the culmination of over twenty years of international deliberations to find the best way to construct a workable international framework for tackling the wicked problem of global climate change.  Unlike the Kyoto Protocol, which imposed top-down carbon emissions on a few countries with none on the rest, Paris provides for countries to identify and commit to their an emissions reduction target of their choice.  As a result, virtually all countries have made commitments.  Some have charged that many if not most of the country commitments are less ambitious than they need to be in order to adequately reduce aggregate global emissions.  But the Paris accord established a transparent process by which countries report their commitments, track their progress against that commitment and periodically ratchet up their commitment to be more ambitious.

The Paris agreement represented, in fact, a huge victory for the United States.  Its combination of a bottoms-up commitment process and a transparent tracking process have been key proposals of the US for rectifying the flaws of the Kyoto Protocol.  But Paris was not an isolated victory.  In 2014, the US and China inked a bilateral climate agreement that, among other things, led to a united front in the Paris negotiating process.  This US/China bilateral help cut through a “you first, no you first” dynamic that had plagued previous climate negotiations involving the two countries.  For the first time in many years, Europe was no longer alone in its climate leadership.

Recognizing what the Paris agreement represents and the platform it provides for future climate progress, Intel urges the Trump Administration to decide to remain a party to this essential process.  To make this case directly to the Administration, Intel signed on to a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sponsored by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES).  More recently, we joined a C2ES letter to President Trump himself making the same arguments.

Recognizing that the process and platform created in Paris will go forward, with or without the US at the table, we believe that the US being at the table is essential.  First, US non-participation lowers the probability that the Paris process will yield an adequate environmental income.  But there are business consequences as well.  Our letter itemizes the most important ways in which US participation is critical to the future success of US business in a climate change policy-impacted world:

  • Strengthening industrial competitiveness

  • Supporting sound investment

  • Creating jobs, market and growth

  • Minimizing costs

  • Reducing business risks

Without the US at the table, international climate policy decisions will be made that do not adequately reflect US interests.  It would be a shame if, after years of arguing for a Paris-like global policy framework, the US walked away from this success only to expose US industry to a climate policy-constrained market over which we have greatly reduced influence.