The U.S. and the Paris Agreement: a rocky relationshipStarting in 2020, this agreement deals with greenhouse-gas-emissions mitigation, adaptation, and finance. Its chief aim is to keep the global average temperature from going 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C. Countries involved with the Paris Agreement must create their own climate change policies and regularly report on their emissions and their climate-change efforts. Why? To prevent climate-related disasters, rising sea levels, and things like flooding and drought. In 2017, Donald Trump controversially withdrew the United States from the global agreement, saying the deal would lead to a “diminished quality of life” for Americans. However, a “Green New Deal,” a term that mirrors Franklin Roosevelt’s original New Deal of the 1930s, has recently been the talk of the town in the U.S. capital of Washington, DC. According to Vox, Google searches for the deal have shot up over the past month, along with Twitter mentions. Almost always, the deal is talked about together with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest woman ever elected to congress. The 29-year-old newly-elected Democrat of New York has become known as the Green New Deal’s most visible public advocate.
But what is this Green New Deal?In a simple sense, the deal refers to a massive program of investments in clean-energy jobs and infrastructure. These investments are meant to transform and decarbonize not just the energy sector, but the entire U.S. economy. According to the Atlantic, the Green New Deal aspires to cut U.S. carbon emissions quick enough to reach the Paris Agreement’s most ambitious climate goal. It’s described as an ambitious package of laws that will touch every sector of the economy. Youth-led activism group, Sunrise Movement, listed seven demands that any Green New Deal must satisfy. These demands range from requiring the U.S. to get 100 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources to “decarbonizing, repairing, and improving transportation and other infrastructure.” The group also calls for massive investments in technologies that could directly remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. On a global scale, the U.S. is the world’s second largest carbon polluter after China and before India. On a per-capita basis, though, U.S. citizens, along with those in countries like Canada and Australia, emit much more carbon than those in India. President Trump’s bold move to leave the Paris Agreement angered many Americans, along with entire municipalities and businesses. In response, a coalition called “We Are Still In” sprung up, garnering significant attention from countless U.S. mayors, governors, and business leaders from companies like Apple, Amazon, and Nature’s Path Foods. The We Are Still In coalition aims to promise “world leaders that Americans would not retreat from the global pact to reduce emissions and stem the causes of climate change.” Its signatories represent a constituency of more than half of all Americans and, taken together, $6.2 trillion USD, a bigger economy than any nation other than the U.S. or China.
The right timing?This Green New Deal and coalitions like We Are Still In prove that many Americans—including politicians and entire businesses—care about climate change. The idea for a green deal is not new; it’s been part of the U.S.’s Green Party platform for the past decade, says Vox. It’s also been central to the European Greens platform. Some say that the Green New Deal offers Americans a “bracing new alternative.” To meet Paris Agreement targets we need drastic changes, and we must reduce carbon pollution immediately. Already more than half of the planet’s richest countries, including Canada, Australia, South Korea, the U.S., and the nations of the European Union, are not cutting their carbon pollution as fast as they promised. It’s not clear at all whether or not a Green New Deal will be put in place in the U.S. What’s clear, however, is that we indeed need major action now to curb climate pollution. I’m sure many agree that working towards such a green deal—or at least elements of it—is just what’s needed.
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