As the possibility looms that our current administration may retreat from the commitment that the United States made to the Paris Agreement, USGBC lends its voice to the array of private and public sector leaders who publicly ask the administration to remain in this global agreement.
The Paris Agreement, under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), establishes voluntary actions to address greenhouse gas emissions and global climate change mitigation and adaptation—and 194 countries around the world are signatories.
Even if focused solely on the U.S. perspective, there are myriad reasons to stay in the Paris Agreement. But one that may be overlooked is the potential negative impact of withdrawal on our economy here in the United States.
U.S. companies are already working to address business risks from climate and to capitalize on opportunities through the Paris Agreement, including wisely investing in low-carbon fuels and technologies to stay on the cutting edge of the global economy.
In fact, the U.S. track record on reducing carbon pollution while growing jobs and our economies provides proof that we should not sacrifice this opportunity for action; rather we should continue to lead. Goods and services touching on clean energy, energy efficiency, resilience and increasingly, IT and data, are a growing area of the U.S. economy. These sectors provide an already impressive number of jobs for U.S. citizens, including many high-quality manufacturing and construction jobs.
For example, high-performing green buildings are projected to account for 3.9 million jobs from 2015–2018. The solar energy industry provides 260,000 jobs with a 25 percent growth rate in 2016, and wind energy another 100,000 in 2016, projected to grow to 600,000 by 2050. Energy efficiency jobs—which are local and cannot be transferred overseas—are also a growth area currently estimated at 1.9 million in 2016 with an impressive 13 percent growth rate.
Increased global demand
The Paris Agreement stands to increase global demand for U.S. goods and services in these sectors—if we remain a viable partner. With several regional trade deals on the table for negotiation or renegotiations, it is critical that the U.S. enter in a position of strength and with strategic allies, to preserve and expand access to foreign markets. Withdrawal from the Paris Agreement will at best weaken our bargaining ability, as virtually all other trading partners continue to engage with each other at the table, and at worst lead to targeted rollbacks in trade with the U.S. as retribution. We believe the U.S. economic growth trajectory will only improve with Paris Agreement engagement to keep us in the regular engagement framework and implementation discussions.
In fact, looking at sustainable, energy-efficient buildings as one example, the U.S. Department of Commerce projects that the export market for this sector’s goods and services will reach $39 billion in 2018, with the global demand for sustainable construction a major driver. China is number three in importing American building products. This strong export market for products such as wood products, windows and doors, insulation, HVAC, insulation, plumbing and glass all increase good jobs here in the U.S.
And because it’s a multilateral accord, other countries will capitalize on the economic benefits of renewable technology if the U.S. leaves, leaving us behind. The U.S. is poised to maintain its global climate leadership through national policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transition to clean energy—or we risk being left behind to China, India and other countries. It would be a lost opportunity, putting the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage and potentially locking us into technologies and economic pathways that are increasingly obsolete while also losing the benefits of low-carbon leadership.
Given the importance of the clean energy, efficiency and sustainable buildings sectors to our future economic strength, USGBC urges the administration to stay in the Paris Agreement and advance the U.S. export position.