As a connector or rural and urban communities, we generally try to avoid politics. When it comes to the Paris Agreement, we can’t be silent—as it is so tied to the principles that led us to Walden and guide our actions day to day.
The Paris Agreement was a landmark step in climate action and a global symbol of good faith. It is incredible that so much of the world came together to agree on anything, let alone a topic as critical and contentious as climate change. Yet, it is important to understand that it was a voluntary agreement, not a binding law; individual countries created emissions targets and pledged to try their best to get there. There is no real enforcing or accountability beyond the eyes and opinions of the rest of the world. As such, we think our withdrawal from the Agreement indicates short-sightedness. With this decision, the US joins Nicaragua and Syria, the only two other nations which have not joined the Agreement.
We can learn from our new trio. Nicaragua believes that the Agreement is not aggressive enough—allowing countries to set their own targets and not holding the biggest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters to a strict enough standard. As the single largest contributor to GHGs over the past century, the US has a unique challenge to right our role in climate change and lead by example.
Exiting the Agreement represents an archaic perception of power. We are demanding attention by being the biggest bully on the world playground instead of earning respect by acknowledging our responsibility. Leaving the Agreement tarnishes the good-faith on which it was built and isolates us from the rest of the world that chooses to consider the future. The debate on the validity of climate change is over, and we have more than enough proof that environmentally-minded decisions are critical to current and future economies, public health, and peace.
Fortunately, we don’t have to stop moving forward because of this symbolic step backward. In yesterday’s statement, Barack Obama reiterated the “bold American ambition that encouraged dozens of other nations to set their sights higher” in the crafting of the Paris Agreement. It is up to towns, cities, and states—along with private companies—to take the lead in the absence of federal leadership.
As we often write here, agriculture is the single largest contributor to carbon emissions behind energy, with livestock representing the lion’s share of the sector’s impact. We raise animals on grass, sequester carbon, and contribute to a net positive carbon footprint…and we look forward to doing our part!