The US just left the Paris climate agreement

“It took the world decades of stops and false starts to come up with the Paris climate agreement, and it remains the most potent international framework to get countries to reduce their contributions to global warming. However, it has critical weaknesses that have threatened to collapse it completely.

In 2015, just about every country in the world convened in Paris and agreed to a few simple but hard-fought principles: The climate is changing due to human activity, the world should aim to limit warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius this century compared to preindustrial levels, every country has an obligation to act, but every country gets to set their own goals.

The terms of the climate agreement are voluntary and don’t carry the force of law (hence “Paris agreement” or “Paris accord,” and not “Paris treaty,” which would be legally binding). But the terms are structured in a way that creates a lot of incentives to encourage countries to do more to limit their emissions of heat-trapping gases, and it contains some prods for countries that are slower to act.

It was clear from the outset that what countries initially planned to do to cut greenhouse gases wouldn’t be enough to stay below 2°C, let alone hit an even more aggressive target under the agreement of limiting warming to less than 1.5°C.”

“the idea of the Paris agreement was to get everyone to agree to a common set of goals and strengthen their commitments over time, with periodic international meetings to see where everyone stands and to hammer out the tedious rules of how to gauge progress. So far, this hasn’t been enough to keep the world on track to meet the goals of the accord.”

“In September, China made a surprise announcement at the United Nations General Assembly that it’s striving to be carbon-neutral by 2060. While China hasn’t laid out exactly how it plans to meet its goal, researchers have begun chalking out a road map to get China to its targets.

The European Union, meanwhile, has adopted a program called the European Green Deal, which aims to make its 28 member countries carbon-neutral by 2050. Its core elements, such as ensuring a just economic transition for workers in industries likely to be left behind in the shift to clean energy, are actually modeled on the Green New Deal proposal in the US. Crucially, Europe’s program calls for a border adjustment carbon tax that could go into effect as soon as 2021. For countries that aren’t doing enough to fight climate change, their goods could face additional tariffs in the EU.

If the United States decided to stay out of the Paris agreement and not step up its commitments, the EU’s new policies could take a big bite out of the US’s roughly $320 billion worth of exports to the bloc.

The EU, China, Japan, and South Korea are also working on their own trade agreements with climate change as a key element.”

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