The case for President Trump to uphold the Paris climate agreement
In February, in his joint address to Congress, President Trump promised to work with both parties to promote clean air and clean water. The president’s actions, however, do not reflect the words he delivered to us that day. Among his first actions: appointing an Environmental Protection Agency administrator who made his name trying to block that very agency from keeping our water clean. He acted to scrap the Clean Power Plan, which was designed to keep our air clean by reducing emissions from power plants. And now, he is threatening to pull America out of the Paris Agreement on climate change. That is a bad idea not just for our planet, but for American jobs and American leadership in the world.
Climate change requires a global solution. It requires the largest emitters — like the United States — to lead the way to get smaller and developing economies on board to reduce their emissions, too. America’s commitment brought China, India and nearly two hundred countries of all different sizes and economic outputs to come to the table and sign the Paris Agreement. The agreement gave the world a blueprint to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a point that would allow us to avoid the worst effects of climate change including sea level rise, extreme weather and severe droughts.
That blueprint depends broadly on the private sector. Business — including agriculture — has already seen how the effects of climate change have increased commodity prices and threatened supply chains. That’s why hundreds of corporations pledged to reduce emissions leading up to the Paris Agreement to show that the United States was ready to take the lead. Companies from Qualcomm in my district in San Diego to Exxon Mobil, the largest publicly traded oil company in the world, still back the agreement because they know while reducing emissions is the challenge of this generation, it is also a tremendous economic opportunity; they also know that innovation and technology make it possible.
With 200 countries around the world racing to reduce their emissions, the demand for carbon-free energy is only going to increase. Innovators are working to make renewable technology cheaper and easier to deploy. This is a rapidly growing industry with the potential to create countless jobs.
This is what’s happening in my hometown. San Diego has the third-largest clean technology sector in America — a $6.8 billion engine that has created 38,000 jobs in our region. San Diego is also the top city for solar power installations, with 90,000 solar rooftops and a total solar capacity in excess of 300 megawatts. The solar industry alone accounts for 8,400 jobs. It isn’t a coincidence that San Diego is also the largest city in America to have a Climate Action Plan that aims for 100 percent renewable energy by 2035. And San Diego Gas & Electric, which I visited this week, already produces as much as 43 percent of the energy it provides to its customers from renewables.
This commitment from the San Diego region brings in millions of dollars in investment that spurs innovation in everything from solar power and algae biofuels to electric motors for heavy vehicles. That combination of intellectual and physical capital makes San Diego one of the most competitive places to open a clean tech business and creates thousands of high-paying jobs in the process. San Diego signaled that it was ready to embrace the clean energy revolution, and the market responded. The United States has the same opportunity thanks to the Paris Agreement.
When the Paris Agreement was signed, it became our best chance to ensure our children and grandchildren have a planet with clean air, clean water and a healthy climate. President Trump is threatening to rob our children of a cleaner, healthier environment and to rob America of its role as a global leader on climate and renewable energy. Why would we give up this leadership position, these jobs and this healthier future for our kids?
By honoring our commitment to the Paris Agreement, President Trump can keep the United States in the driver’s seat. If we set bold targets to reduce emissions, we will make America the center of energy innovation and ensure that nations around the world are coming to American companies to buy clean technology designed and manufactured by American workers.
No matter what he says, President Trump can’t bring back the energy jobs of the past. But by keeping America in the Paris Agreement and working with Congress, he can help create the energy jobs of the future in every community across the country. If he pulls out of the Paris Agreement, America will fall behind, lose its leadership role, and the president’s words on clean air and clean water will be just another broken promise.
Peters represents California’s 52nd District in the House of Representatives, serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and is a member of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus.