On June first, when President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Agreement, the whole world was taken by surprise by what seemed like another absent-minded decision by the current administration. The President’s statements made headlines worldwide, both domestic and international, with influential leaders from around the world pronouncing their discontentment of Trump’s abrupt end to a decision that had brought 99% of the world’s sovereign nations to come together and agree on a crucial topic for the common good of man, saving the earth’s environment.
The environment’s well-being is something that has increasingly seen more attention in our politics, media, and even our daily lives, and with good reason. Human activity, such as deforestation and using fossil fuels, has contributed to climate change, which in turn, has accelerated the degradation of the environment. With our oceans rising, seeing longer and stronger heat waves, and experiencing harsher droughts, the earth is bound to go through changes leading to a decrease in biodiversity, which in turn would negatively impact our habitat, thus ultimately altering our way of life.
Our planet is a common good since all living beings share it and benefit from it. This is made clear in both Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato si’ (2015) and the World Youth Alliance Declaration on Population and Environment (2016), where one’s responsibility in protecting the environment is acknowledged, and where calls are made to take the necessary steps to further mitigate climate change in order to protect the environment. By stepping away from the Paris Agreement (2017), the United States’ current administration turned its back on the first efforts of man to tackle one of our planet’s greatest environmental issues.
Though it is exceptional that countries like India and Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia, and North and South Korea are sharing signatures in an accord, a pact like the Paris Agreement cannot be considered as a complete nor comprehensive deal without the presence of the United States, especially when it’s responsible for producing 14.3% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, the second largest emitter of this pollutant in the world.
As a citizen of the United States, I applaud the actions taken by the states which conform the United States Climate Alliance and the cities like Atlanta, Chicago, and Washington D.C., amongst several others, which will still honor the Paris Agreement despite the decision taken at the federal level to exclude the country from this non-binding resolution. If we don’t start taking actions now, as a country, to protect our environment, there will be no world left where the intrinsic value of mankind can be safeguarded. For that reason, it’s imperative that the United States and its residents recognize their commitment to care for both earth and neighbor and join the rest of the world to make our planet great again.
Written by Andres Carrillo, a current intern at the WYA North America office.