Our Opinion: Heed governors, industry leaders, on Paris accord

Governor Charlie Baker deserves praise for speaking up in favor of the Paris climate agreement and urging the Trump administration to continue to abide by it. The White House can't kill the agreement but the withdrawal of the U.S. from it would cripple it.

On Wednesday, Governor Baker and Vermont Governor Phil Scott, both Republicans, jointly sent a letter to U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry calling the pollution reduction goals of the Paris pact "achievable" and asserting that their states are already feeling the affects of global climate change.

"We have seen the impacts of rising sea levels, increasingly severe flooding, heat waves, droughts and decline in snow cover," the governors wrote. "These impacts threaten the people of our states and put an intense burden on our economies."

The Paris climate agreement, reached during the administration of President Obama and signed by China and almost all of the world's developed nations, pledges a concerted effort to reduce fossil fuel usage and promote clean energy to combat human-caused global warming. The accord is also supported by the many third world nations that are being devastated by droughts and floods that the world's scientific community says are clear signs of climate change. On Thursday, the European Union and 79 developing countries in Africa, the Pacific and the Caribbean declared in a joint statement that the Paris Agreement is "irreversible and non-negotiable."

The timing of the statements by the two governors and the EU and the 79 other nations is not coincidental. There is concern that President Trump, who has referred to climate change as a "hoax" perpetuated by the Chinese, will before the end of the month carry through on his campaign promise to withdraw the U.S. from a pact it was instrumental under President Obama in formulating. The president has called the pact a "bad deal" but has not been specific about his objections.

The president has no apparent constituency for his threat to abandon the Paris agreement. A poll released by Grist Tuesday found that Americans support the Paris accord and the nation's participation in it by a margin of 5-1. A majority of Americans in all 50 states, including the coal state of West Virginia, back the agreement. Hundreds of business groups have come out in favor of the Paris agreement, and General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt, whose worldwide corporation is establishing its headquarters in Boston, has expressed support for it.

Fossil fuel companies Shell, Chevron, Exxon Mobil and BP have issued statements urging the administration to honor the Paris accords. Shell CEO Ben van Beurden told NPR this week "We believe climate change is real. We believe that the world needs to go through an energy transition to prevent a very significant rise in global temperatures. And we need to be part of that solution in making it happen."

Governor Baker has been a strong advocate of clean energy programs and at an editorial board meeting with The Eagle on Tuesday, the governor talked about his hopes that hydroelectric power will become a far larger component of the Massachusetts energy picture within the next couple of years. Plainly this is the direction for the state to go in, as it has for several years now, and the nation should as well. The Trump administration, however, is focused on a doomed revival of the polluting coal industry and executive orders weakening federal environmental regulations, most notably the order rolling back President Obama's Clean Power Plan, will have an adverse impact upon Massachusetts regardless of the wisdom of its environmental policies.

The ambitious Paris climate agreement will be severely undermined should the United States withdraw. The White House needs to rethink its counterproductive energy and environmental policies, and the president can begin by heeding world leaders, heads of the fossil fuel industry, business groups and the governors of Massachusetts and Vermont and continue U.S. participation in the Paris accord.


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