After Trump withdrawal, what’s the future of the Paris climate accord in Vermont and beyond?

When President Donald Trump said during a June 2017 White House speech that he was “elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” he publicly rejected the costly, controversial international Paris climate-change accord that is part of the broader United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

“The Paris Agreement handicaps the United States economy in order to win praise from the very foreign capitals and global activists that have long sought to gain wealth at our country’s expense. They don’t put America first. I do, and I always will,” Trump said last year.

Courtesy of Vermont Law School

Yale international law scholar Harold Hongju Koh will speak at Vermont Law School on Thursday. Koh was a legal advisor to the U.S. State Department under former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“Under the agreement, China will be able to increase … (fossil fuel) emissions by a staggering number of years — 13. They can do whatever they want for 13 years. Not us. India makes its participation contingent on receiving billions and billions and billions of dollars in foreign aid from developed countries. There are many other examples. But the bottom line is that the Paris Accord is very unfair, at the highest level, to the United States.”

While it remains unclear what it means legally to withdraw from the agreement given that the soonest the U.S. can withdraw is 2020, many Republicans and others against U.S. participation in the lopsided accord seem to agree that continuing with the U.N. effort will undermine the American economy and put the nation at a permanent disadvantage.

Uncertainty over the future of the Paris accord will be the topic of a free public lecture hosted by Vermont Law School later this week.

To address the ongoing allure of the accord on both the international level and in Vermont, Yale international law scholar Harold Hongju Koh on Thursday will present “The Future of the Paris Climate Change Agreement After Trump” in Chase Community Center on campus.

Since Trump’s withdrawal, experts have attempted to grasp the legal, environmental and economic ramifications of such a pullout. The Washington Examiner reports that sticking with the agreement “could have cost 2.7 million lost jobs by 2025.” The numbers provided from a National Economic Research Associates study include a loss of 440,000 manufacturing jobs.

But here in Vermont, environmental activists and even Republican Gov. Phil Scott have set an ambitious, go-it-alone-path as a means to force the Green Mountain State to adhere to the costly ideals of the Paris accord, despite the state’s anemic job creation efforts and an anti-business image.

According to a S&P Global Markets’ 2017 report, it would have cost the United States $5.2 trillion to comply with the Paris agreement. But that figure is based on financial estimates individual countries submitted to the U.N.

In November 2016, just days before the election of Donald Trump, the Paris Agreement came into force for 191 signatories, including the U.S.

Koh, a Democrat, served as a State Department legal advisor under former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, having been nominated to the position by President Barack Obama. His resume also includes clerking for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun and serving as an attorney-adviser for the U.S. Department of Justice.

On Jan. 25, Koh spoke to faculty and students at Penn State’s University Park campus regarding President Trump and the Paris accord. While he admitted not having voted for Trump, he said he expected him to nevertheless uphold the Constitution.

“His strategy could permanently change the nature of many of our country’s international relationships. So what should we do about it?” Koh said. “ … As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, the arc of history does bend toward justice, but not by itself. We are all participants, and it is our common duty.”

The free lecture is open to the press and runs from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 1 in Chase Community Center on campus. It also will be streamed live here.

Lou Varricchio is a freelance reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at lvinvt@gmx.com.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Analogue Kid and Vermont Law School
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2 thoughts on “After Trump withdrawal, what’s the future of the Paris climate accord in Vermont and beyond?

  1. The world CO2eq, all sources, including Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF), are on a “business as usual” trajectory to become about 64.7 b Mt by 2030. If so, the increase above pre-industrial would be about 4.3 C by 2100.

    There has been a reduction in the rate of increase of emissions during the past few years. The IPCC BAU CO2eq projection for 2030 is based on a higher CO2eq growth rate than the actual growth rates in 2015 and 2016. However, a greater growth rate is expected in 2017. See URL.
    http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/summary-of-world-co2eq-emissions-all-sources-and-energy-related

    World investments in RE systems have averaged about $280 b/y for the 2011 – 2016 period (6 years). That level likely would lead to CO2eq emissions of about 64.7 b Mt by 2030. China has spent about $80 b/y during the past 3 years to finally deal with its horrendous pollution problems.

    2) The world CO2eq emissions, all sources, would be about 58.9 b Mt by 2030, with full implementation of all policies and pledges made prior to COP21. If so, the increase would be about 3.7 C by 2100. Investments of at least $600 b/y, starting immediately, would be required to achieve the IPCC trajectory of 58.9 b Mt by 2030. See note 1.

    3) The world CO2eq emissions, all sources, would be about 55.2 b Mt by 2030, with full implementation of UNCONDITIONAL COP21 pledges by 2030, per IPCC. If so, the increase would be about 3.2 C by 2100.

    4) The world CO2eq emissions, all sources, would be about 52.8 b Mt by 2030, with full implementation of CONDITIONAL COP21 pledges by 2030. If so, the increase would be about 3.0 C by 2100.

    5) The world CO2eq emissions, all sources, would be about 41.8 b Mt by 2030, with an ADDITIONAL 52.8 – 41.8 = 11.0 b Mt of CO2eq emissions reduction by 2030. If so, the increase would be about 2.0 C by 2100. That additional reduction is not trivial, as it is equivalent to about 11 times the total annual emissions of the entire EU28 transportation sector.

    6) The world CO2eq emissions, all sources, would be about 36.5 b Mt by 2030, with an ADDITIONAL 52.8 – 36.5 = 16.3 b Mt of CO2eq emissions reduction by 2030. If so, the increase would be about 1.5 C by 2100. Investments of at least $1.5 trillion/y, starting immediately, would be required to achieve the IPCC trajectory of 36.5 b Mt by 2030.

    NOTE 1: Item 2 is a big if, because since COP1 (Kyoto-1990), all major developed nations have failed to fully implement all policies and pledges to decrease CO2eq emissions.
    http://www.nature.com/news/prove-paris-was-more-than-paper-promises-1.22378

    NOTE 2: The US had pledged a CO2eq reduction of about 1 b Mt from 2015 – 2015. However, due to the US withdrawal from COP21, that reduction may be less, which means other nations would have to make up the difference, not only regarding emission reduction, but, more importantly, also regarding the scheduled US contribution to the Green Climate Fund of about $25 b in 2020, and much greater annual amounts thereafter. China and India, major polluters and claiming “developing nation status”, would not pay a dime.
    http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/the-us-leaving-cop21-a-rational-decition

    Sequestration of CO2 on a Massive Scale: The IPCC assumes emission reductions for each year after 2030, to ultimately achieve:

    – ZERO emissions by about 2080 to achieve 1.5 C by 2100
    – ZERO emissions by about 2100 to achieve 2.0 C by 2100

    This would require sequestration of CO2 on a huge scale. Wherever sequestration demonstration plants were built during the past 15 years, all ended up as expensive failures.

    NOTE: “This is a miracle scenario of the IPCC, in which the climate models reach 1.5 C. The scenario assumes that carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, which stores carbon dioxide in large quantities underground, is to be used on a large scale. But this would be far too expensive. The scenario is based on self-delusion.”
    http://www.dw.com/en/earth-on-track-toward-2-degree-global-warming-researchers-say/a-39970667

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