The negotiations continue in Paris this week at COP21 as representatives from around the world try to reach an agreement on action against climate change. Obama says parts of the climate action deal should be legally binding to countries that sign on …and most other countries agree.
Unfortunately, Congressional Republicans disagree and immediately expressed their displeasure about this intention. Ted Cruz is even holding a Senate subcommittee hearing tomorrow entitled “Data or Dogma? Promoting Open Inquiry in the Debate over the Magnitude of Human Impact on Earth’s Climate” that appears to be aimed at finding uncertainty amidst the scientific consensus on climate change (ugh!!). That’s on top of the vote Senate Republicans called last month to block the newly finalized Clean Power Plan.
And, while people are entitled to their own opinions, I find this glorified tantrum to be particularly frustrating because it not only ignores a global scientific consensus, but it also ignores what the American people want. A New York Times/CBS News poll shows that two thirds of Americans support the U.S. joining a binding international agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions. If Congress is meant to represent the American people, why isn’t the legislature getting behind meaningful climate action?
I also dislike these attempts to undermine a global climate agreement because they create unnecessary confusion for businesses trying to craft long-term strategies. Businesses want to take action on climate change – 501 large companies/investors and counting have pledged to take climate action through the We Mean Business coalition, and over 150 large U.S. companies have signed onto a White House pledge to reduce their carbon footprint – but it’s difficult to create a long-term strategy when you don’t know what the rules are going to be.
We need to send a clear signal to businesses and industry that climate action is important and will be supported by the government. Once businesses are certain that the U.S. is prioritizing clean energy development and emissions reductions, they can confidently commit money and time to pursuing these goals (and they can be sure they won’t fall behind competitors who might be less environmentally-minded).
We also need to send a clear signal to the rest of the world. Other countries may be hesitant to take on the effort of climate action if the world’s second largest emitter can’t promise it’s going to take steps to reduce its environmental impact.
So, as the world gathers in Paris to discuss a changing climate and to chart a course moving forward, I hope that the U.S. can support a legally binding agreement – one that leaves no doubt that the U.S. is on the sustainability bandwagon.