The Paris Climate Accord and Hawaii

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By: T. Jeffersonian 

Since 2016, we have heard quite a lot about the Paris Climate Accord.  The US entered the Accord in 2016 during President Barack Obama’s second term.  Then withdrew from the Accord in 2019 during President Donald Trump’s term.  Only to re-enter into the Accord on President Joe Biden’s first day in office January 20, 2021.  What is the Accord and what does it do for the United States? 

I have recently written about Climate Change and Hawaii.  Climate Change could be real.  Climate Change could be causing sea levels to rise, air and sea temperatures to rise, and if true will cost the United States and the world trillions of dollars.   Since 1880, due to greenhouse gases, the world temperatures have risen a full 1.3 degrees Celsius.  By the end of the 21st century, world temperatures will have risen to 2 degrees Celsius above 1880 levels. 

The Accord: 

The Paris Accord is the world’s first climate change agreement having the long-term temperature goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature rises to well below 2 degrees Celsius.  Further, the Accord pursues those necessary efforts to limit the temperature rise increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.  The Paris Accord intends to accomplish its goals by dealing with greenhouse-gas-emissions mitigation, adaptation, transparency, and finance sharing from the more industrially developed countries with less developed nations. 

As of November 2020, 194 countries have signed the Accord.  These countries account for about 79% of global greenhouse gas emissions and include the six countries with the six largest greenhouse gas emissions – China (28%), the United States (14%), the European Union (10%), India (7%), Russia (5%), and Japan (3%).  The Accord’s agreed upon strategy involves energy and climate policies based on 20/20/20 Targets which involve: reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 20 percent; the increase of renewable energy’s market share to 20 percent; and a 20 percent increase in energy efficiency.  The Accord furthermore aims to quickly reach peak and reduce global greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible.    

Green Climate Fund:

In 2016, the Obama administration gave a $500 million grant to the Green Climate Fund.  The Green Climate Fund is a financial entity within the Paris Accord that intends to cut greenhouse emissions for developing countries. It is funded by developed countries.  The $500 million was the first installment of a $3 billion U.S. commitment.  The Green Climate Fund has since received over $10 billion in pledges from developed nations like France, the United States, and Japan, but has received pledges from developing countries such as Mexico, Indonesia, and Vietnam. 

The Green Climate Fund has not to date received pledges from China, India, Russia, and the European Union and has already fallen well short of its target $100 billion.  In Paris in 2015, when the most developed countries reaffirmed their commitments to mobilize $100 billion a year in climate change related finances by 2020.  They also agreed to continue mobilizing Paris Accord related financing at the level of $100 billion per year until 2025.   

Name and Shame:

The Paris Accord is a “Name and Shame” agreement.  Unlike United Nations agreements in 1992 and 1997 that were agreed to by the U.S. Senate, the Paris Accord is a political agreement. Other than Western media embarrassment, there is no mechanism forcing any nation to achieve the individual climate change objectives which they individually establish for themselves on a timeline of their own choosing. 

Only two years after Paris, in 2017, two studies in Nature stated that no developing nation had met their agreed upon climate reduction benchmarks and that even if these objectives had been reached, global temperatures would still rise 2 degree Celsius. 

Another 2018 report stated that even if emissions were cut to zero that the planet will continue to warm because the Arctic is thawing and releasing methane (another greenhouse gas) into the atmosphere.  This report stated that the planet’s temperature has never been historically 2 degrees Celsius above the norm and this rise alone will cause the planet to continue rising on its own to a level between 4-5 degrees Celsius.  This report declared the Paris Accord’s 2-degree Celsius reduction benchmarks as being too low to avoid the higher temperature rise.  

The United States has given $300 million thus far to the Green Climate Fund.  Now that we have re-entered the Accord, and owe the remaining $2.7 billion more toward our initial $3 billion pledge.  On top of this, we have agreed to collectively mobilize $100 billion each year until 2025 toward benchmarks that no developed nation has reached once since the Accord was signed.  The Accord itself was described as being not enough by President Obama.  When the United States grants billions of dollars to these funds, we lose control over how the funds are applied.  We throw the money out the window, hoping the dollars will fall to those who need them most. 

Hawaii Needs Help:

Hawaii is $1.4 billion dollars short in operating funds now.  By the end of 2021, Hawaii will be $2.8 billion short.  In October 2020, Hawaii borrowed $750 million just to make payroll.  In 2017, Hawaii got 62 percent of the state’s electricity from fossil fuels.  Hawaii has a renewal energy initiative target set for 2045 but it does not have enough money to operate much less to advance additional initiatives. 

Why not give Hawaii the $2.7 billion?  Why not focus Paris Accord money pledged to developing countries on reducing the 14 percent of greenhouse emissions that United States is producing?  We can sell our climate change technologies as revenue generating products and services.  The United States has the world’s best military.  Countries want to catch up.  The United States is the world’s largest petroleum producer and exporter.  Countries want to catch up.  If we become the world’s number one greenhouse reducer and become completely renewable, clean energy independent, other countries will want to catch us.  In this case, greenhouse gases will be reduced through competition and risk reduction as all nations, especially as our competitors, strive to become energy independent through renewable, clean sources just like the United States.  

Conclusion:  

Donald Trump, being a business leader who saw issues starkly in terms of profitable losses and gains, saw no return on America’s investments in the Paris Accord.  He especially saw this when our economic competitors agreed to the Accord but have not pledged one dime to the Accord since.  President Biden would be wise to invest Paris Accord pledged finances in the United States and reduce perhaps 14 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions emitting from us.  By investing the money here, President Biden has control and can measure the returns on the Paris Accord investments.  By investing here, the United States can become the world leader in climate change and we can make money by selling our advances.  These investments can also go a long way to helping the United States recover more quickly from Coronavirus, especially our states who are struggling to serve the people despite seemingly insurmountable revenue shortfalls. 

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