The Paris Agreement
The Paris Agreement marked one of the few cases when the nations of the world were able to agree on the issue of climate. Many climate change commentators and politicians hailed the treaty as a turning point in the environmental agenda around the globe. Like other conventions and covenants on climate change, its implementation fully depends on state parties and signatories. Consequently, it depended on the goodwill of the participants, and it is not uncommon for state parties to disregard such an accord when it does not suit their political, economic and strategic interests. This paper’s aim is to explore whether the US will meet the targets it promised as a part of the Paris Agreement concerning present and future projections.
Why Is the US Not Likely to Meet Its Targets?
The US will not achieve the objectives it set under the agreement. A current trend in the country shows that climate change issues are highly partisan there in comparison to any other nation around the globe (Kellstedt, Zahran, & Vedlitz, 2008). Democrats are for taking measures that will help lessen the effects of global warming by cutting emissions through the limitation of the use of fossil fuels such as coal and the support of new technologies that promote green energy. In the US, whenever such proposals are submitted by the government or individuals, certain people always argue that green energy programs are meant to decrease the number of jobs for Americans. Some have even billed climate change to issue a hoax that the enemies of the US have created. The country set a target of reducing emissions by 26% to 28% of its 2005 levels by 2025, and 30% by 2030. It seems that this will be impossible.
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A trend towards the election of the new President who has no respect for the accord will also ensure that the US will not attain its goals. The country will most probably not perform its duties under the Paris Agreement because of the manner in which it assented to the treaty and the lack of political consensus on the problem (Gelles, 2016). Having established that this was a partisan issue in the US, it is crucial to remember that the President bypassed the Congress that would have been hostile to the deal in the ratification process. Thus, this may lead to reversal by the future President. In fact, the Republican nominee for the Presidency promised to disregard the Agreement if he was elected (Gelles, 2016). With no commitment to the covenant, there will be no incentive to continue the implementation of the programs, which President Obama has enunciated regarding climate change such as significantly embattled Clean Power Plan, which was developed to reduce power sector emissions by 30% by 2030 as per the Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC). Considering that Americans continue to use fossil fuels and that the change would require large-scale lifestyle adjustments and political goodwill, this idea does not seem likely to succeed. Another reason why the US will not meet its obligations presupposed by the treaty provisions is that the country’s current plans to stabilize greenhouse emissions are barely enough to reach the target, which the state set itself in the Paris Agreement in compliance with its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC). According to the present-day US intentions, it is impossible to cut seventeen percent of the amount that the country emitted in 2005 by 2020, or to achieve the most ambitious goal of between twenty-six and twenty-eight percent by 2025; in spite of the proposed legislation and regulations meant to settle the issue. A study has suggested that even in the case when the US makes everything right corresponding to the latest plans, which is unlikely to happen, it will still fall short of its targets by 340 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.
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Moreover, it is scarcely probable that the state will fulfill its intentions because of the increased use of fossil fuels. In recent years, more oil reserves were explored and now the ways of exploiting them are being devised. The availability of cheap, domestically produced oil will induce higher consumption of hydrocarbons from oil, which is likely to be on the rise in the US for the next several years (Kellstedt et al., 2008). Therefore, this appears to be averse to the INDC to cut emissions in the energy sector by 30% by 2030 since more oil will lead to extra emissions. Consequently, the targets of minimizing greenhouse effects caused by some gases such as carbon dioxide will be undermined.
Furthermore, in a bid to extract maximum value from the oil fields within the US, the matter of fracking has been an environmental and climate change issue since the 1980s, and it continues to advance. The process is not likely to slow down in the coming years and as oil companies seek to derive enormous benefits from this industry in spite of potential environmental impact (Davis, 2012). Fracking not only leads to the output of oil products with their significant carbon dioxide emissions but also produces methane itself, which is even more noxious than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, which again undermines the INDC of reducing emissions in the energy sector by more than 30% (Davis, 2012). Consequently, based on the fact that this process will most likely be left unabated for decades, the 2025 date for limiting the number of greenhouse gasses by more than 26%, and the 2030 date for a 30% decrease seems highly improbable.
Other than fracking, the largest contributor of methane to the atmosphere is the cattle; presenting a unique challenge not only to the US but also to the rest of the world. Cattle keeping is one of the leading agricultural practices in the US and around the globe (Koneswaran & Nierenberg, 2008). It is almost impossible for the government to regulate the number of cows in the country in order to control methane production and its release to the environment. Moreover, beef is one of the most pervasive food in the world, with the US being a renowned producer. It seems that in the immediate future, the amount of livestock will steadily increase to meet the demand of meat and its products not just in the US, but also worldwide (Koneswaran & Nierenberg, 2008). Cattle cause global warming through deforestation; the aim of the latter is to extend the land for growing animal fodder. However, more importantly, manure produces large amounts of methane (Koneswaran & Nierenberg, 2008). With these impediments, the US will not reduce the proportion of methane that is released to the atmosphere by 2025 as indicated by its INDC.
To conclude, current and future trends in the US indicate that the country will not be able to adhere to its obligations under the Paris Agreement. Firstly, the problem of climate change, global warming, and their control is a potent political issue in the state compared to other nations. Thus, this complicates the position of the government regarding the Paris Agreement since some Americans will perceive measures aimed at its implementation as the ones, which cause the loss of jobs. Moreover, the future ascent to power of a President who does not have the commitment to the treaty such as Donald Trump can explicitly induce disregard of the covenant that Trump promised to do as it forms significant political capital. In addition, America’s plans to cut the degree of emissions are barely enough to reduce it especially considering that the regulations might be neglected or even distorted by other “pro-business” administrations. Oil drilling and its expected advance in production fouled by fracking will also facilitate the advance of the greenhouse effect. Furthermore, the projected increase in cattle will lead to more methane emissions thus lowering the possibility of meeting national targets.