The Paris Agreement signed by 196 nations within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change deals with greenhouse gas emission mitigation, adaptation and finance. It is essentially the world agreeing on a path forward. However, after reading the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, hearing the June 2017 announcement that the U.S. intends to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, and the absence of COP23 coverage in the news makes me faaaaaar more frustrated than Ms. Flowers visit did to John.
The deal essentially asks nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to regularly increase their ambitions and aim to keep warming well below 2 degrees Celsius. The only binding element of the Paris Agreement is basically on the requirements to report on progress. Yet the way the Paris Agreement is portrayed and villainized by Trump and others in the media is drastically different than it’s actual agenda. In fact it is interesting to me that previous attempts at a climate deal like the Paris Agreement required essentially the same measures be adopted by all signing parties, which is why they were never adopted. Economies, cultures, and nations differ so greatly, a common denominator was hard to determine or achieve. So, using a “bottom up” approach and allowing ratifying countries to determine the best way forward for them, individually, galvanized support for the agreement. This to me points out that the power is in local policy (local in this setting being countries) and the Paris Agreement is essentially just a meeting place for accountability.
Likewise, it is inspiring that since the withdrawal announcement, more than 1,200 universities, colleges, investors, businesses, mayors, and governors from around our country have declared in unison that they are still part of the Paris agreement (according to the Nature Conservancy) and have sent a letter to the United Nations to underline their commitment to continue to address carbon emissions. This is the kind of initiative we need as a nation. This is another example of local policy in our own country creating a nation and worldwide impact. I’d like to think we can make a massive policy fixing everything that can be enforced. Buuuuut that’s my very unrealistic, naïve, passionate, hopeful mind thinking. Change takes time and strategic action, especially when we’ve been doing the wrong things for so long. It takes a network of policies, local, state, regional, national and international, and that is harder to do than I wish it was.
As I end this blog post I’d like to again share a Hawaiian proverb I’ve already mentioned in one of our first classes this semester, but that I feel leaves our discussions of the Paris Agreement, COP23, the current state of our country on addressing the impending threat of climate change, and policy initiatives on a positive note – he li‘i‘li‘i ka ‘ukulele, naue na‘e kino nui – a flea may be small but it can make a whole body squirm. This Hawaiian proverb elucidates how a leader, a policy, a initiative has the ability to catalyze great change and inspire others to action.