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Leaving Paris


June 19, 2017

The announcement by Donald Trump that that United States intends to ignore the non-binding Paris Climate Agreement, with the intention to renegotiate it to foist his America First policy on the rest of the world, should come as no surprise to anyone.

What is surprising is who opposed the US withdrawal: Big business – including fossil fuel transnationals Exxon Mobil, Chevron, and BP, industrial agribusiness and agrochemical giants Monsanto, DuPont, and General Mills, and more, as well as the current Secretary of State (and former Exxon exec). If nothing else, this assortment of big-business boosters of the Paris Agreement tells us just how weak the agreement truly is at addressing the root causes of climate change.

Since Kyoto, the US has diluted every global climate proposal to the point of ineffectiveness, including the Copenhagen Accord in 2009 and the Paris Agreement itself.

It was the US that insisted on making the deal based on non-binding pledges for voluntary emissions cuts (which collectively would still lead to a global temperature increase between 3-4 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels), on preventing the operating text of the agreement from including recognition of human rights and the rights of Indigenous Peoples, and on promoting many false solutions that will end up doing a great deal of harm (including so-called “carbon neutrality,” which allows polluters to keep polluting by purchasing offsets).

These realities, combined with Trump’s claims that the Paris Agreement would somehow be an unfair burden on the US, are particularly disturbing, embarrassing, and even enraging, given the responsibility that the US has as being the most historically responsible for the causes of climate change, and our continued role as one of the most significant contributors of greenhouse gas emissions in the world.

It is clear that major transnational corporations played a large role in influencing the US’s role in negotiating the Paris agreement. Indeed, Bloomberg news reports that Exxon and Conoco-Phillips supported the Paris agreement based on the argument that “The US is better off with a seat at the table so it can influence global efforts to curb emissions that are largely produced by the fossil fuels they profit from.”

Contrary to Trump’s “America First” philosophy, isolating the US from the rest of the world only hurts us more. We are not separate from each other or from the rest of the world – rather our lives and our future are in a precarious balance that is linked to one another.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words are more true today than ever: “In a real sense all life is interrelated. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”

We must continue to push and hold our government accountable for the US’ role in causing climate disruption.

As always, it is clear that what is most needed is leadership and solutions coming from those most impacted by climate disruption, including grassroots communities and social movements of small-scale farmers, Indigenous Peoples, Black and Afro-descendant communities, migrant communities, women, and young people in the US and around the world – particularly in the Global South. These are the communities on the frontlines of climate impacts, and at the forefront of struggle.

These are the communities putting their bodies and lives on the line to stop fossil fuel extraction, to regulate refineries and shut down power plants, to stop the corporate takeover of agriculture, land, water, and seeds.

These are the communities pushing to address the legacies of environmental injustice. These are the communities standing up against megadams, forest offsets, agro-fuels, and other false solutions to climate change.

And these are the communities creating the solutions that we will need for a healthy future, based on the concept of buen vivir – living well, in harmony with one another and with Mother Earth.

This article has been excerpted from: ‘Leaving Paris for All The Wrong Reasons’.