When President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris climate agreement on June 1, he forfeited U.S. leadership on the most critical issue of our time and rejected the international community’s best offer to work together for our future on the planet. President Trump’s shortsighted decision not to act threatens unique ecosystems, impoverished communities in climate-vulnerable countries, and future generations of people and all species.
Rather than dissolving national and international will, however, President Trump’s abnegation of our national responsibility has energized the original spirit that led leaders of 196 countries to the table at Paris and has emboldened global resistance to climate inertia and ignorance. This was the sentiment of Christiana Figueres, who led the original negotiations of the Paris agreement in her former role as executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
World leaders also condemned the decision. European G7 leaders, although notably lacking British Prime Minister Theresa May, signed a statement expressing their regret and affirmed that the Paris agreement couldn’t be renegotiated as U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry had floated. The EU stated jointly that they would strengthen existing partnerships and seek new ones to fight climate change. Just a day after the announcement, China and the EU announced a joint initiative to address climate change. Climate change will also be a top issue at the G20 economic summit in Hamburg July 7-8.
A defiant new French President, Emmanuel Macron volunteered France to lead the world on climate change solutions. Of particular note, he pledged to assist African nations in these efforts. Even Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said that the Paris agreement would be hampered without key actors.
Leaders in climate vulnerable countries also reacted. The small island states of Tuvalu, Fiji, and the Marshall Islands condemned Trump’s decision. Fiji is chairing the next COP in Bonn to continue implementation of the Paris agreement this fall.
On May 31, in anticipation of a decision, Bread for the World Germany and Climate Action Network Tanzania released a 100% renewable energy roadmap for Tanzania. It was developed based on bilateral meetings, workshops, conferences, and site visits and builds on the expertise of Tanzanian government officials, parliamentarians, civil society representatives (climate, environment, faith groups) as well as researchers and energy industry representatives.
In the U.S., governors, cities, counties, investors (including the Maryknoll Sisters), and businesses launched the #WeAreStillIn statement and campaign (http://wearestillin.com) committing to, “remain actively engaged with the international community as part of the global effort to hold warming to well below 2℃ and to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy that will benefit our security, prosperity, and health.”
Even ExxonMobil, the largest gas and oil company in the world took climate action and passed a shareholder resolution to put the corporation in alignment with the 2ºC warming scenario that 196 countries committed to in Paris. The Maryknoll Sisters and other members of the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility—investors worth more than $5 trillion in assets—were part of that important shareholder activism.
This announcement also spurred more members of Congress to join the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, whose membership now outnumbers the House Freedom Caucus 46 to 36, and is split evenly between Republicans and Democrats. This effort is one of the most significant advances on climate policy in Congress since 2009.
As Pope Francis said, climate change represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day, one that will take everyone to solve. For more than a century, Maryknoll missioners have lived alongside marginalized communities that have suffered through violent conflicts, environmental disasters, and economic crises. They are already responding to climate-related emergencies such as the extreme drought in East Africa, hurricanes in Central America, and rising sea levels in Bangladesh. Read our response to the announcement at http://bit.ly/2tq7Vxx
Don’t give up hope! We will move forward with the world to address climate change. Our commitments made in Paris are achievable and we can even do more. In fact, the U.S. could still stay in. Officially, the U.S. cannot exit the Paris Agreement until January 21, 2021, one day after the next presidential inauguration.§
Faith in action: Ask your governor to join the “We Are Still In” campaign at http://bit.ly/Governors4Paris